Last weekend, theatre audiences took their imaginations to soaring new heights thanks to the creative minds behind Arts Collective Theatre (ACT). They took six months’ worth of real-life interviews with seniors who were new to Windsor (and Canada) and shared the best of them in a one act play entitled In Flight, which was staged last weekend at The Atelier.
Staged a bit like a murder mystery where the actors were intermingled with the audience, The Atelier was set up to resemble the interior of an Air Canada Jazz flight ACT8868, complete with curtained off first class area and an airport gate waiting area for when you first arrive. Seating was assigned and a stewardess (Eva Kratochvil) greeted and seated passengers on the plane.
The entire presentation was well done, with Kratochvil giving flight preparation speeches, delivering food items and serving passengers as best as she could. It was basically up to her to keep the flight running on time.
Throughout the short flight, audiences were treated to improv presentations from nine actors who took on the roles of the seniors and newcomers making their way to Windsor for the first time. As almost any typical flight would be, the culture was diverse and challenging. We met a pompous English gentleman, a young Syrian refugee, a gay couple and a few others – giving as much diversity as you could trap in one room at one time.
Had this been a flight in 1970, things might have been a bit more hostile, but thankfully this is 2018 and the diversity within the plane was a lot more acceptable – most of the resentment and frustration seemed to dwell within the newcomers themselves and not so much the audience. There were moments when things were a bit tenser, like when Mohamed (Rami Al-Sharak) started to pray before the flight took off or when Edward (Robin Swainson) pretentiously belittled those around him.
The entire production was a learning experience – not only for the audience, but for the actors themselves. One of the things ACT does in its Social Justice project is allow for commentary and questions after the show is over – these frank discussions open a sense of dialog and conversation that wouldn’t happen had the audience just departed after the show was over.
I adore these ACT Social Justice Projects – they are always relevant, poignant and they seem to plant positive vibes when you leave the building. It’s a healthy way to discuss issues that might otherwise be impossible to discuss in the open. In Flight took on prejudice in a bold and honest way without insulting the actors, characters or audience. The most prevalent story here was that of Mohamed. With tens of thousands of Syrians immigrating to Canada in the last couple years, his story helped us understand the challenges he faced heading to Canada and then Windsor to avoid a catastrophic war that left him without a family – he was on the flight alone, looking for someone/anyone to be his friend. Every story told in the play was just as important and relevant as Mohamed’s and they’ve helped make Windsor the diverse city it is.
It was a wonderful way to present a play and inject a social message at the same time and ACT should be commended for creating events like this.
The complete cast, many first-time actors, included Kratochvil, Al-Sharak, Swainson, Gilles Hamel (Gilles), Mike DeGuire (Mike), Karen Roberts (Cecilia), Jordanka and Vanyo Kanova (Dana and Van), Deanne Johnson (Nicole), Albert Sharp (Jonathan) and recorded voiceovers from Raymond Lord (pilot) and Livia Lord (airport terminal voice).
The ACT Social Justice Theatre Project is a series of collaborative workshop to create a one act play. The project’s intention is to make audiences aware, through healthy public dialogue, of social justice issues by providing awareness and education to promote positive change. These are usually productions with important messages to share – like last’s year’s stunning A Girl Like Me, which shook audiences to the core with its cyberbullying message. Past shows have included themes on, LGBTQ, refugee and newcomer barriers and stereotypes, mental health stigmas, and homeless and marginalized youth.
The play was directed by Chris Rabideau and originally conceived and written by Rabideau and Linda Lord. Workshops were held with seniors and newcomers by Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women, Life After 50 and the show was funded by the New Horizons for Seniors Programs Grant.
ACT returns in late April with the Windsor premiere of Dreamgirls, playing at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are on sale now.