Windsor Feminist Theatre is proud to present the brand-new dramatic mystery “Walking Upside-down Underwater” by Windsor playwright Edele Winnie. The play’s not only about the intense mystery of a woman gone missing, but also deals with the accompanying grief, the weight of responsibilities, the interconnectedness of everyone, and generational cycles. It opens May 5 at The Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor.
In an interview with new Windsor Feminist Theatre Artistic Director, Rebecca S Mickle, she talks about the challenges of producing the play, the thought-provoking and poignant tone of the theme, and the importance of having a feminist theatre perform it.
Mickle was announced as the new Artistic Director for the Windsor Feminist Theatre earlier this year, and she admits that working as a producer for Walking Upside-Down Underwater has been exciting new territory for her. “There are so many aspects of producing that I had never tackled before but having a good team has made the transition very smooth,” she said. “Teamwork makes the dream work!”
Mickle and her team approached local writer Edele Winnie to write a socially relevant play for a smaller cast and left the creative decisions up to her. After reading the play, Mickle thought it had powerful themes and would greatly impact audiences. “It is the perfect mixture of mystery with heartbreaking and poignant points with some really lovely, funny moments,” she added.
Walking Upside-Down Underwater is based on actual events from a recent case in the news in the United Kingdom. Writer Ms. Winnie says she was captivated by the story. “It was so unexplainable,” she said, “a competent accomplished woman was here one day and then she went for a walk and completely vanished. Was she kidnapped? Did she run away? Was she abducted by aliens? There was absolutely no evidence. And there was no reason for her to leave. It was a really perplexing puzzle. But the more I picked at it, the more I could see the answers were already there. We take so many things for granted.”
The case exploded in social media in the U.K., and thousands of people joined in the hunt for the vanished woman. “It got completely out of control,” Winnie said. “Instagrammers were digging up people’s yards and breaking into their sheds looking for clues… and possibly a body. Because of all the attention some high profile psychics became involved too. It ended up being a real circus. It made everything much more difficult for the police. I tried to show some of that in the play as well,” Edele said. “This was very difficult for everyone.”
Mickle says that performing artistic works that illuminate the lives and stories of women is at the core of Windsor Feminist Theatre’s values. “Walking Upside-Down Underwater is not only a story about a woman’s life, but a story about how she shaped the world around her through her relationships with everyone she came in contact with. The play deals with some real issues in people’s lives, so younger audience members may want to discuss things afterwards- which is perfect.” Mickle added.
When asked to describe the play, writer Edele Winnie said “it’s about relationships- specifically the most beautiful ones- those of loving friendships. In the play Julie Petar is connected to everyone. She is valued, loved and admired. She’s like the tent pole that holds everything up, so it’s rather shocking to everyone when she vanishes without a trace. And of course there’s some humour- it has to be fun as well as interesting! And even in the grief we see the seeds of new things, new relationships sprouting,” she added.
Mickle’s first production as Artistic Director is coming together smoothly, with the help of an amazing team behind her. She says that working with director Joey Ouellette was a natural progression, given their previous collaborations. They collaborated on casting, set design, and promotion, making it a joint effort.
“I have been in shows he’s directed (Dominatrix on Trial, The Rinsing Witch), shows he has written (A Haunting in E Flat, Incredible Hospital), and shared the stage with him (Criminal Genius, Negatunity),” she pointed out. “His view is just a little different than everyone else’s, so he always brings a fresh liveliness to the production.”
When Edele sent the finished script over, she included a list of actors she envisioned in each role. Mickle and Ouellette reached out to the actors, and while some of them were already involved in other projects and had to decline, they were able to secure a few of Edele’s choices. From there, Mickle collaborated with Ouellette and they reached out to other actors in the community they thought would fit the characters well. “I believe everyone is perfectly suited for their roles and I think audiences will agree,” Mickle said. “I can’t imagine anyone else in the roles now.”
Though it’s wrapped as a mystery, Walking Upside-Down Underwater is thought-provoking and poignant with sweet and humorous moments interspersed throughout. Mickle says that she loves the deep relationships that are built throughout the play. The story takes place over a number of weeks, so the bonds these characters build with each other are expanded upon and solidified as the play progresses. “It allowed the actors to really dig deep and evolve in the ways they portrayed their characters,” she added.
Mickle says that she hopes audiences will leave the show remembering that we’re all human and we need to look out for one another. “It’s perfectly acceptable to express our grief and find comfort in one another,” she said. “Life, like producing theatre, goes best when it’s a team effort.”
The importance of having a feminist theatre perform Walking Upside-Down Underwater is not lost on Mickle.
“I think it is important that this play be performed by a feminist theatre because it deals with specific complex issues that women every where face every day,” she adds. “Part of the story is the intense changes that come with menopause, the emotional labour that women perform day in and day out, and the many responsibilities and expectations women shoulder in all facets of their lives.”
Ultimately, Mickle hopes that audiences will leave the show with a sense of empathy and compassion for their fellow human beings. “I think audiences will be moved by this show and I hope they’ll discover a new appreciation for the relationships in their own lives. Ultimately we all just get a brief time; some of it is good and some of it is bad and we have to make the best of things at both times. That old saying is true- it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
Winnie adds “that it is so important that there is a female focused and led theatre working to present modern local female experiences. It’s good to have musicals and classic dramas, but when do we get to see ourselves- our hopes, our dreams- up one stage? It validates our lives- somehow, we know it’s okay to cry ourselves to sleep because we are not alone. Women are not always front and center but we hold up the world.”
“Walking Upside-Down Underwater” promises to be a powerful and moving theatrical experience, and a testament to the power of feminist theatre. Don’t miss your chance to see “Walking Upside-down Underwater” at The Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor, May 5-7 and 11-13 at The Shadowbox Theatre. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.