Kismet Theatre Academy’s upcoming original production aims to challenge conventional definitions of masculinity and start a conversation about what it means to “be a man.”
This summer Kismet owner and director Bonnie Catterson reached out to men in the community to come together to share their personal stories on the subject of manhood. The idea came to her three year ago, when she produced a similarly structured play with an all-women cast. She said she went into the project without knowing what to expect.
“My concern with this was that I was not going to get a very large cross-section of different cultural upbringings, but we did. Our youngest participant was 15 when he started, he just turned 16, and our oldest is in his mid-60s,” Catterson said.
“What we found more than anything is that [men and women] have so much more in common than we are different.”
Catterson’s group writing exercises turned into monologues and from there she added dialogue and choreography to make the separate pieces flow together into a single play.
The final product, Be a Man, comes to the Malaspina Theatre on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 30-Oct. 1). The play is a fundraiser for Haven Society’s Men Choose Respect program, which works with “men who want to stop their use of abuse in their personal relationships and choose respect and equality with their partners.”
“I would say we have more buzz about this show than I’ve had about any other show that we’ve ever done,” Catterson said.
Her actors – Jonathan Hamilton, Grayson Mitchell, Blaine Nosworthy, Gordon Perreira, Ladislav Wagner and Vincent Wells – said they were drawn to Be a Man because it was a new, challenging opportunity.
“As an actor we tell stories and if we’re lucky enough to learn how to do it properly, we get to shed a little bit of light on our own life story whenever we play a character,” Nosworthy said, calling writing and performing his own monologues, “The ultimate dream as an actor because then I get to actually tell those personal stories from a place of personal truth with no protective barrier.”
“I’ve not done a project like this before, something this, what’s the word – primal?” added Wells. “It is about men’s issues. It’s quite naked, there is no hiding how you’re feeling. It’s something a lot of men my generation wouldn’t do publicly.”
Wagner called the play a “very baring” but “therapeutic” exercise.
“It’s been very healing just writing the play, because as issues came up we had this tight-knit group that would help us cope with these things, various emotions, You certainly remember your childhood pain that you kind of forgot about just talking,” he said.
Hamilton said the process of writing and performing his monologues has made him revisit childhood traumas.
“I’ve spent a lot of my life in counselling and working through what I’ve had to work through and I’ve been trying to put that in the past and this is bringing that all up again, which is really good but it is scary,” he said.
“I just want to work through my stuff so I can be confident in the man that I am and then share that with other men and boys. We’re incredibly sensitive, emotional creatures as human beings, both men and women, and it’s so important that we get that out and change the stereotypes.”
WHAT’S ON … Kismet Theatre Academy’s Be a Man shows at the Malaspina Theatre Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 30-Oct. 1) at 8 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets available at Haven Society, Romper Room, Lucid and at the door.