‘disPlace: Refugee Stories in their Own Words’ uses theatre to tell the immigrant story

November 24, 2016

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Is any sacrifice too great to protect your family? This question is familiar to some of the 10,000 plus refugees who come to Canada each year. It is also the question that guided Angela Konrad in her vision for a new, original theatre production that helps share the refugee experience with Canadians.

disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words, was written collaboratively by Konrad and the cast based on the experiences of refugees to Canada. Konrad, a Jessie-award winning director, saw theatre as an ideal way to tell the refugee story.

“You can hear somebody tell a story but that’s different from actually enacting that story. You can see it on film but you’re not sharing physical space, sharing the same air as these human beings. Theatre gives us an opportunity to walk alongside other people to experience some of their story in a way that nothing else does,” says Konrad.

Unlike TV news coverage soundbites of refugees that can leave individuals feeling exploited, theatre offers a respectful means of conveying the refugee experience. It provides the time and space for real stories to unfold. The stories told on stage are from new Canadians who have chosen to share their story. While some may do it for cathartic reasons to help heal personal wounds from the past, Konrad says others do so in the hope that hearing their experience will encourage Canadians to help other refugees and immigrants.

In disPLACE, the diverse cast of actors, each transforming into multiple characters, weave together an unforgettable journey using verbatim testimony and original music to tell honest real-life experiences and individual stories.

The audience is drawn in to discover the human experience hidden beneath the headlines. From the immigrants who fled Europe after World War II, to the current Syrian refugee crisis, the stories brought to life in disPLACE offer a unique glimpse into the bonds that tie all of us together.

One family, fleeing guerrilla forces in Colombia, concealed themselves among the furniture in a moving truck. A refugee from Iraq arrived in Delta as a teenager, braving the social dynamics of high school with very little English and her head shaven from surgery. These and other personal experiences, captured word-for-word in the dialogue, take on even more poignancy with the original music woven through the production.

Director Angela Konrad, chair of the Theatre Department at Trinity Western University’s School of the Arts, Media + Culture, conceived disPLACE to be presented in the SAMC season as a launch piece for her newly formed company Dark Glass Theatre. The new theatre company was established with a mandate to tell stories that enable us to see face-to-face, people we might not otherwise meet, to thereby decrease judgement, increase compassion, and foster empathy.

disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 3 at Freedom Hall, Trinity Western University. Tickets are available online at www.twu.ca/theatre or by telephone: 604-513-2188.

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