In early 2019, we conducted a successful arts-based story-gathering workshop with a community of seniors including women who have experienced violence. Based on the stories gathered and issues raised throughout the community workshop, Associate Playwright Roselyn Kelada-Sedra developed the Forum Theatre play Never In The Room in collaboration with OAITH staff, who helped ensure the script accurately depicted systemic resources, processes, and potential gaps. The play Never In The Room toured regionally in Ontario in late February and early March 2020, visiting Aging Without Violence training sessions and interacting with service providers working in social services and in the Violence Against Women sector.
Flip through the gallery to meet the cast of Never In The Room, written by Roselyn Kelada-Sedra, directed by Simon Malbogat and Stage Managed by Flavia Martin!
Interview with Lubna Marium (“Robyn” in Never In The Room)
Tell me a little about yourself and about your character in Never In The Room.
– I can never come up with a ‘little’ one-liner about myself, as my work is related to so many aspects of theatre and performance in my country, Bangladesh. As a performer, I am primarily a dancer, choreographer and director. On the other hand, my cultural activism, through our organization Shadhona, includes research and training in the arts; creation of artistic ventures; preservation of cultural heritage and, lastly, performance outreach. Finally, as an academic my area of study is Indian Aesthetics. Presently I am in a Graduate Program for Theatre and Performance Studies at York University.
Playing Robyn for Mixed Company Theatre has been a unique experience, primarily due to the improvisational nature of Forum Theatre, which requires the actors to delve deep into the essence of the character they are playing. Though, it’s a, well-written, 30-minute play, each of us was required to create our own biographies, so that every action on stage had positionality. The audience only sees Robyn, a 65-year old ailing immigrant from Bangladesh, abandoned by an abusive spouse and dependent on her only son who tends to be controlling. But, in my mind I had Robyn’s entire history which had shaped who she was – anecdotes from her life, her unfulfilled dreams, incidents involving her son Dereck, her failed marriage, et al. So, responses to questions from the audience came very naturally.
How did you become interested in theatre as a tool for social change?
– After almost 35 years on stage, it dawned on me that I had spent a life-time playing someone else. The arrogance of being a ‘prima donna’ took a severe beating with the realization that for years I had created illusions after illusions for the audience, while the real me and my reality, my joys, my angst had gone missing. I took a step back from performance, and spent almost a decade delving texts after texts trying to understand how our sages and scholars have interrogated and evaluated ‘theatre’. My staunch belief in performance as a site for transformation was strengthened. I returned to the world of performance but this time round, I initiated projects which utilized theatre for social change, i.e. ‘feminist dance theatre’ projects, various performance outreach programs for marginalized communities, etc. Thus, my interest in MCT’s Forum Theatre initiatives.
What has been the most memorable moment for you (in rehearsal or tour) for ‘Never in The Room’?
– Working with each member of the team has been sheer pleasure – learning ‘theatre’ anew from each of them: the early morning warm-ups, Alex’s ‘tongue twisters’, Flavia’s relentless line-drills, Jane’s effusive and tangential role-playing, Madeline’s calm collectedness!! However, meeting Simon Malbogat and being directed by him will remain the most memorable part of this experience. In our surreal world of performance, its not everyone who chooses to opt out of all the ‘glitz and glamour’ of theatre. Simon and MCT have walked a different path, but have touched hearts with their work. I also thank, Simon, for being the gentlest of Directors I have ever met. I am certainly not one of them!
I do hope this is the beginning of many more collaborations with MCT.