Bound to Create Theatre presents “Dirty Butterfly” as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 Presentation Series
by Ryan Quinn
I sat down with director Jack Grinhaus and actor Lauren Brotman, Co-Artistic Directors of Bound To Create Theatre to discuss their upcoming production of Debbie Tucker Green’s Dirty Butterfly, being presented as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013-14 Presentation Series. We were also joined by their adorable ten-week-old Ethan, who the staff of the Artegelato cafe, where we were meeting, have been eagerly watching grow since he was born.
Dirty Butterfly is the story of an abused woman in a lower-class housing complex in Britain whose neighbours on either side have very different reactions to the sound of domestic violence coming through their walls. One neighbour actively avoids the entire situation, deluding herself into denying what’s happening, while the other becomes almost obsessed with it and completely drawn in. The show first ran at the 2012 Toronto Fringe, which, to Grinhaus, was a testing ground to see if the material could work as a full run. Of course, going from the Fringe Festival to being a part of a larger season at Obsidian has its own challenges, which have more to do with budget and promotion.
The pair first became interested in this show when they found themselves both working on different projects about domestic violence at the same time. “The statistics are frightening, on the rise, and damning,” they discuss. So, the pair went off in search of shows that deal with that topic, and Dirty Butterfly was so perfect for what they wanted to accomplish and explore, that they say they had no other choice. Bound to Create reached out to the White Ribbon campaign, and other local groups focused on this topic, and is happy to be working with them on this project.
Grinhaus and Brotman are incredibly excited to introduce Debbie Tucker Green’s work to the Canadian stage, as they see the power that British works can have on this side of the ocean: “There is a facility with language that even the lower classes have, that makes British theatre so different. Not only is the language fluid and precise, but Green writes in a cadence that the cast really has to tap into”. Grinhaus describes working on a scene where the character work was spot-on, then having to go back and speed up the pace to make the rhythm of the text work. “Trancelike is actually a really good word for it. The beat draws us into the action and really makes us feel complicit in what’s happening. The result is an audience that either identifies with one of the two neighbours, or falls somewhere in-between, on the spectrum of fear to obsession. What do we do on the other side of the wall?”
What makes this show leagues away from being a feel-good morality tale, though, is the complexity of the characters involved. “Green has made the main character, right from the top, do and say some things that are really…unlikeable,” Brotman tells me, “The audience probably won’t like this woman.” Also, there are no big acts of physical violence in this show, which separates Green from the fellow playwright to whom her work is most often compared, the late Sarah Kane. Brotman explains, “Jack’s done something smart where the little moments of violence in the play are closer to metaphors, leaving a play that strongly focuses more on the reactions and the repercussions of the violence.”
It’s also the smaller character moments that speak so much about the class culture in Britain and across the world. Grinhaus tells me about a small piece of text from a character who is a cleaner in a cafe, whose only dream is to someday be a barista. “It’s this tiny moment that happens too fast, but it really hits me”.
Luckily, the rehearsal space was one of the best she’s ever been in, Brotman explains. “It was very zen, you know. I was there with my husband, and my son was there in the room with me, it felt like a very safe place.”
When asked if he has any advice for young companies looking to produce important work, Grinhaus immediately replies “David Mamet is no longer relevant”. He explains that, sure, Mamet’s plays are full of angry conflicts, and that’s where young actors tend to be most comfortable at that stage of their lives, but his plays just are not the right kind of shows to be putting up right now.
His more direct advice, though, was that to be in the business, you have to be in the business. “When I was working at a restaurant in New York, I had to drop an audition because I couldn’t risk losing a shift. I never made that mistake again”. Grinhaus recommends working in any area of the theatre you can get into: “I got more acting jobs from being the guy sitting beside the director of another show in a different capacity than I did from auditioning”.
Bound to Create Theatre is also doing a cross-promotion with Paint Box Bistro for Dirty Butterfly. Paint Box is a restaurant and culinary school that teaches young people in Regent Park the skills they need to work in restaurants, or open their own. Their infrastructure supports establishing kitchens and allows use of the space to Regent Park start-ups. Paint Box is offering 10% off pre-show meals with proof of ticket purchase.
by Debbie Tucker Green
When: October 30th to November 17th
Where: Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas Street East.
Tickets: www.boundtocreate.com, or by calling 1-800-204-0855.