Back in September, The Quill was able to sit down and speak with James Forsythe about his upcoming theatre production. It has been several months now, and with the work of cast and crew, it is mere days away from opening night.
The play, titled Safer Ground?, is “about Canadian soldiers and Afghan men and women,” says Brittany Phillips, who portrays an Afghan woman in the production. “The theme of the play is whether or not the Canadian soldiers should stay, or […] leave.” Anyone expecting a work of fiction with distinct villainy and heroism will be surprised. Written purely from interviews with real soldiers and Canadian Afghans conducted by Forsythe himself, the play moves away from a traditional structure in favour of a raw portrayal of a real subject. “No one plays one particular character, it’s a bunch of people and their views,” says Taylor Sukut, who plays an Afghan man in the production. “It shows a lot of viewpoints […] and doesn’t discuss a particular one. It just lets the audience make their own decisions about the issues in Afghanistan right now.”
Forsythe told The Quill that he tested the play in Montréal during his leave two years ago, and that he thinks the play will definitely spark some controversy among some of the audience. “The experience from Montréal was a bit like sticking a stick in a wasp’s nest. I mean, people got excited about this. They either thought it was too much one point, or too much the other, or I was biased, or an employee of the Pentagon or I was with CBC; it was crazy.” Despite this, Forsythe states that the play is purely adapted from his interview subjects’ words, with no changes or adaptations. “These are not my thoughts; they are the people I interviewed. They’re not even my opinions; my opinions are kind of irrelevant.”
The cast also hopes to make viewers reflect on the subject. “I think that this play will definitely spark some lively debate,” relates Alyssa Doerksen, who plays a Canadian soldier deployed in Afghanistan. “My hope is that it will make people think about the war in Afghanistan in a way they didn’t before this play.”
The cast, crew, and director are all clearly excited to bring this play to the stage and are very complimentary of one another. “I think it’s been great. I just couldn’t be happier with the way the cast has progressed. I think they’ve done an absolutely amazing job because […] to cross the cultural divide – to be Afghans, to be veterans, to be talking about war [and] peace, leaving and coming back, […] things that they have never done. I think they […] really honored the voices I heard in the interviews.”
The play is free to students, and runs from February 28th until March 3rd, with showings at 8:00 pm, except Sunday, when it will show at 2:00 pm. All showings will be in the Evans Theatre. The ticket price for non-students is $10 and tickets can be purchased at the campus bookstore or at the door.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 22, February 26, 2013.