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Director Eric Rose reflects on being struck by lightning with STRUCK

By Sheroog Kubur, January 30 2023

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but Eric Rose, writer and director of theatrical production STRUCK takes that saying to a whole new level. The play follows a 21-year-old Rose before, during and after his experience getting struck by lightning. The first half of the play follows the incident and the second half follows his brush with mortality again after his father passes away 20 years later. 

“In many ways, it’s a coming of age story both from the perspective of a young adult moving into adulthood but also as an adult moving into middle age,” Rose said about the story. “There’s always some friction as we mourn what we were and embrace what is to come.”

The play was born shortly after Rose moved from his hometown Sudbury to Calgary, where he spent the bulk of his time writing the script. It was a complete one-act story, but it wasn’t until recently that he was commissioned by his hometown to continue the story. Following the passing of his father during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was inspired to revisit the story of mortality. 

These events are what Rose calls “irrevocable moments,” or times in your life that are the catalyst for major change that you can’t return from. The moments that make you stop and realize that life will never be the same after this. Rose emphasizes these moments as part of the human experience and universal despite how devastating they may be. 

Beyond the story’s major theme of mortality, STRUCK spends its first act exploring itself through memories. It asks questions to remember what exactly happened the day of the incident, but acknowledges the fickle and fragile nature of memory. Act one is attempting to piece together a puzzle using nothing but the collage of memories of the original puzzle. 

“The first act is about exposure and illumination and how you look back — our memories are fragmented so we have these strange collages of what we remember and even that changes,” Rose said about the direction of act one. “Because of those underpinning themes, it felt like there was a video or film language that really matched with that.”

The aforementioned video language was translated to the stage through visual effects. Theatrically, the first act is extravagant and audacious. It relies heavily on visual and audio effects to tell its story, making use of dramatic lighting and complex sound mixing. Act two follows by addressing what’s missing through the lens of grief and loss. It is much more stripped back from act one, feeding into the emptiness that comes along with the loss of a loved one. 

“In the second act it became apparent that the theatrical language wasn’t the same — the means of expression were different,” Rose said about the directing process of act two.

Despite the daunting themes of the play, Rose maintains that it’s a story that anyone can relate to. 

“My expectation isn’t that a bunch of lightning strike survivors come to the show,” Rose joked about the intention behind the production. “My expectation is that the commonality of facing our own mortality — and that being a very human condition — is the thing that will bring in and draw people to the work.”

While talking about the major themes of both a lightning strike and the passing of a loved one, Rose didn’t shy from injecting his own philosophies on how western societies handle grief. He cited the COVID-19 pandemic as bringing us all much closer to death than many of us have ever been and the need to take time to reflect and process those emotions. 

“We don’t understand life fully unless we see it in the contrast of death,” Rose said. “The more we fear that the sicker our society gets — it’s because we’re mortal that we have and can have such joy in our lives.”

STRUCK is a story about coming to terms with mortality from a truly unique perspective. It’s not every day that you hear of someone getting struck by lightning, and it’s even less common that someone turns it into a theatrical production. The show opens on Jan. 31 and will run until Feb. 11. Tickets can be found at www.ghostrivertheatre.com/struck

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