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School of Creative and Performing Arts opens season with play about refugees

By Jason Herring, October 20 2015 —

The drama season at the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) opens with The Container, which runs until Oct. 31. The play explores themes of refugees and human trafficking, and is set entirely in a plexiglass container on the stage of University Theatre.
The play follows five refugees as they flee the violence of their home countries in a container headed for England. Clare Bayley wrote the play for the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won multiple awards. Though it was written years ago, director and graduate student Azri Ali says the contemporary timing of the play is fitting.
The Container talks about refugees and their journey to Europe, so it’s a very topical time to stage it with what’s happening now in Syria,” Ali says.
There’s another level of realism involved with the play, thanks to the set work of graduate student Michael Sinnott. The actors portraying migrants will perform in a transparent container on the stage with audiences situated on all sides.
“We set up the play in a plexiglass container, which is trying to imitate the experience of refugees who have been transported from Afghanistan to Europe,” Ali says. “We’re not using the conventional space.”
This unique arrangement means the theatre only has a capacity of 108 audience members for performances. Third-year drama student Behrad Moshtagh, who plays Kurdistani refugee Jemal, says he’s looking forward to the intimacy of sharing the stage with audience members.
“Having the audience close changes the way you act. When they’re further away, you need to reach the outermost audience members and your actions and voice are bigger. But when they’re closer, you get to be intimate with people,” Moshtagh says. “Having them that close brings a sense of closeness to the real importance of both what’s happening within the theatre and what’s happening outside the theatre with the Syria crisis.”
Moshtagh thinks the play’s unique design and contemporary resonance makes it an ideal show for students who don’t watch much theatre. The unique staging will allow audiences a familiarity with the cast usually impossible in theatrical performances.
“Even if you’re not one to see theatre often, this is a play to see,” Moshtagh says. “And not only because of the gravity of the situation and the context of what’s taking place now the play itself is much more modern and contemporary. The way it’s staged is very contemporary.”
Moshtagh thinks The Container runs at the University Theatre at 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 25 and at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 22–23 and Oct. 28–31. Tickets are free for students through the Claim Your Seat program, but the SCPA says seating is not guaranteed due to limited capacity.


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