The first day of rehearsal has come to an end and I feel full of ideas, of words, of images and of our nine fine actor’s voices ringing in my ears. But before I continue to wax poetic, let me introduce myself. My name is Natasha Greenblatt and I’m the assistant director for Imago Theatre’s Montreal production of If We Were Birds.
If We Were Birds was written by Toronto playwright Erin Shields. It premiered at SummerWorks in 2008 and was remounted at the Tarragon theatre in 2010. The play is a contemporary reimagining of the Greek myth of Philomela, Procne and Tereus, one of my personal favorites from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It tackles themes of sexual violence in war and its relationship with domestic sexual violence. But, as our brilliant and charismatic director Micheline Chevrier said today, it’s also about love, loss and the challenge of being a human being. Today we asked the question: Is it in our nature to commit acts of sexual violence?
Someone a bit less charismatic then Micheline once said, “life is nasty, brutish and short” but we have to keep going (the second part is my addition). The play is often brimming with humour and joy. And it is that paradox that it so deftly reveals; the capacity we, as humans, have for great love, for great rage, and, as we continually see around us, for horrendous violence.
But the true beauty of Erin’s play is that the medium is, in fact, the message: it is often through story telling that we give voice to the victims of violence, that we begin to heal, that we attempt to move through pain. And that is perhaps If We Were Birds greatest triumph, to break the silence and tell the stories that need to be heard.