Khalida Artist Statements

 

Artist Statements

David Fancy, Writer, Director, Producer

I wrote Khalida as a gift to a friend, Addil Hussain, an Iraqi-Canadian actor, as a vehicle for his significant talents to explore the realities of how art, violence, courage, and love intersect in our contemporary global community. The play is not based on his personal history, but rather is a composite of many of the struggles and elations experienced by individuals who have come through displacement and war. Central to the story for me is the role played by artistic expression, humour, and embodiment in our attempts to make meaning from challenging experience and is an affirmation of the pivotal function artistic practice plays in helping us generate both imaginative and ethical responses to the world.

A small number of independent theatre companies in Canada perform the vital role of unifying culturally diverse artists, their communities and narratives. These companies also explore international theatre practices, which provide the theatre community and its audiences with stimulating stylistic alternatives to the realism dominant on our national stages. In our fragmented and increasingly divided world, I believe in following these examples and those of international companies. The next generation of theatre artists in Canada will need to create stories for a diverse audience that are common to our human experiences - stories that are informed by cultural identity without being limited by it.

Art, in whatever it’s manifestation, is an exercise in generosity. The impulse behind the creation of this play was to provide an opportunity for a friend, and in my mind, a quite brilliant artist, to tell a story that I felt might be close to his heart. I feel I’ve been able to create something that holds a dynamic equilibrium between two important points along an artistic continuum:

The first of these is precision. Our ability to communicate, to move, to release affect in a spectator all depends on our capacity, as artists, to make sophisticated differentiations in the materials at hand. Precision is generosity, as Eugenio Barba suggest. Good theatre that is oriented in one way or another towards text must use writing with precisely calibrated language, tone, and rhythm to allow the rest of the artistic team to have a myriad of choices and possibilities, toeholds into the text. A good play will be able to begin to harness what the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh described as ‘the Gods of sound and time’. This is the gift given to the director, actor, and eventually the audience.

Second point along the continuum is vitality, or what Dylan Thomas called ‘the green fuse that drives the flower’. I have tried to pack as much lyricism, energy, templates for physical expression, emotional possibilities and colour, empathetic connection, ironic distance, humour, disgust and love as possible into this text, and within as economical a structure as I could muster. This, I hope, will be another gift, that of fierceness and tenderness, of light and dark, of an attempt at an arresting honesty and vision of what artistic expression can be about.


Jason Jazrawy, Actor

When I first became involved with Khalida, I knew it was going to have a profound effect on my life, both as an artist and an individual.  I felt it was one of those parts I was ‘born to play’, most conspicuously because I share the play’s title as my own name: Khalid Jason Jazrawy.  I was named after my father, who was born in Iraq and came to Canada in the 1960’s to seek his fortune and raise his family.  Although I had plenty of exposure to the Arabic culture through his side of the family, we were primarily influenced by Western culture, as English-speaking Canadians.  I felt that the opportunity to play an Arabic role, especially one with the added challenge of being a solo performance, would allow me to explore that side of myself more deeply.  I was motivated by the thought that I could represent my family and tell a side of their story in the Canadian theatrical arena.

Although the character of Said is unique in temperament and vocation, his plight is common in every Arab country, and familiar to more Arabs than should ever be.  More than this, however, he serves as an example, a man searching for truth and peace within himself and the world;  an Arabic Everyman to whom all ethnicities can relate.  This is an important duality.  Having played the terrorist jihadi on previous occasions and seeing this image as the one at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of Arabs, I was excited to help provide an alternative.  To portray an Arab as a positive role model for a change, instead of a cautionary tale.

My family did indeed prove extremely helpful in my research about what life in the war-torn Middle East feels like.  More than I’d previously imagined, I connected to my Arabic heritage from historical and emotional perspectives that fuelled my performance in Khalida’s first successful run at SummerWorks 2008.  I have come to see the role of Said as not only an immensely gratifying artistic challenge, but as a means to unite my Canadian identity and my Arabic heritage.  To present an evocative story that strikes chords on either side of the East/West divide, and encourage audiences to move to deeper understanding.


Vojin Vasovic, Set Design
When I first read Khalida, one of the strongest images that remained in my head was a frozen moment right after the explosion, when everything is still in the air, broken, in pieces, almost beautifully flying. It is this motion that I would like to create in the set. It will consist of hanging pieces of his memories: suspended pieces of iron (that can also be used as a tool and a reference to Meyerhold's Biomechanics), suspended microwave, table, rearview mirrors, etc. These memory substitutes will all be used as surfaces—multidimensional screens—to project on. For example, when closed, the microwave will be the screen of the TV, iron pipes will become neon lights, etc.

Vojin Vasovic, Video and Lighting Design
The main lighting source for Khalida will be video projections. Since the concept of the play is based on deconstructing memory, video projections will present those visual fragments of the past that come together, meet or collide. But no matter what atmosphere or emotion they present at certain moments, those fragments will be projected not only on props and backgrounds but also on the character's body, positioning him in the middle of his own memory that literally puts a light or a shadow on his face. The back curtain will be made from a translucent screen, a kind of nylon, similar to that which we would find in industrial usage. Additional lighting sources will be positioned behind that screen that will allow the actor to do a shadow-play, performing some of the characters behind the curtain. Video transitions in between the scenes will be very liquid-like, reminding us of oil and water, elements that connect the visual structure of the play.

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Brock Congress 2014

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