I feel incredibly lucky to have seen Another Africa: a compelling and innovative production of two one act plays. The stories depicted in Shine Your Eye and Peggy Picket Sees the Face of God were daringly specific, rather than shy and general glosses of Canada’s relationship with Africa. Everything from the content to the technical elements of the play stirred my mind, creating a flurry of questions.
This is why I am very thankful that Maev Beaty, a cast member of the production agreed to answer some questions for all of us. I am so excited to share with you her playful and earnest answers.
H: Briefly describe a favourite new experience that this play has given you.
M: The education I’ve received from my collaborators and the curiosity it’s fostered in me about my responsibilities to my fellow humans on a global scale. Perhaps that sounds like “Liberal White Guilt” laden hooey, but it’s actually much more practical than that. I’m grateful that working on this show has complicated my approach to my ethical choices. That, and this amazing meal at Swish by Han with Liesl and Kristen during tech week – wow that was yummy.
H: How did the inclusion of multi-media influence the rehearsal and performance for you?
M: The demands on the actor playing Liz are significant. She has to manipulate an incredibly sensitive camera, with a series of repeatable close-ups, while acting for both the camera and the stage. It’s a huge feat and pulled off so beautifully (and heartbreakingly and hilariously) by Kristen. My job is to support her in that in any way I can, from cheering her on to getting out of the way of her monitor! But really the multimedia in our play enhances the story telling without interfering with our dynamic or ensemble work, so I get off easy.
H: What was one of the most striking things you’ve learned from the rehearsal process/or performance?
M: The production of Peggy has been a rich reminder of the relationship between my actor mind and body. It demands a slightly heightened and deeply emotionally available presence, combined with a completely engaged physical precision. And both the emotion and movement have to be repeatable, not from night to night, but from minute to minute. I would love to look inside our ensemble’s brain and watch how all the synapses fire and messages get sent! The emotional, thought, ensemble and physical demands are the most integrated I think I’ve ever experienced. And it’s that level of rigor that is so satisfying. I’m grateful for the demands of the script and the director and the immense generosity of my fellow actors to pull it off.
H: In what way did this production expand and enrich your understanding of your experience and practice of theatre?
M: I have been fortunate to be in a few projects that demand collaboration between a huge group of artists, for example TheatreFront’s The Mill project with four different playwrights, four directors and one acting ensemble. Being of part of this production, I have met artists from Africa, Europe, and North America, including team members from Canada, England, Germany, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, the USA, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Theatre is a human art form and this production is inextricable from the human beings I’ve been lucky to meet, to learn from and to be challenged by. A dream recipe for essential theatre in our city? A blend of creative partners who come from a totally different perspective than you, and partners who you can deeply trust with the vulnerability of courageous risk-taking choices. This production was overflowing with both, and I have been personally and professionally enriched by that. It will have a lasting effect on how I live my life and make my art.
Also if you haven’t seen it yet I urge you to! It runs until the 22nd. There is still time!