In Situational Anarchy, Graham Isador (Soulpepper Playwright’s Unit, VICE) shares stories about his teenage years spent on internet message boards, in strip mall record stores, and at concerts in basement and backrooms. Runner up for Outstanding Production at the 2016 Summerworks festival the show is about the growing pains of adolescence and the inevitable heartbreak of teenage conviction.
To learn more about the show and its creator, I was able to pose some questions to Isador, who graciously accepted.
HM: Given the autobiographical nature of Situational Anarchy, how long did it take for you to be ready to share it with a wider audience?
Graham Isador (GI): Situational Anarchy is framed as an open letter to Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of the band Against Me. When Against Me – an anarchist punk band – signed to major label it threw my whole life into disarray. The band had been the champions for my teenage ideologies, and the fact that they were becoming a part of a larger institution (and by extension maybe making some actual money off their art) seemed like a sellout. It was the opposite of what the band had to taught me to believe. I began talking about Against Me incessantly. I’d be at Thanksgiving dinner and I’d talk about Against Me. I’d be at a cousin’s first communion and I’d talk about Against Me. First date? Against Me. I couldn’t help it.
When I was working at Soulpepper under the guidance of Guillermo Verdecchia, I was encouraged to examine where these feelings were coming and start relating them to the larger stories of my life. What the show ended up being is a story about whether or not we can hold on to our youthful convictions and what that means in adulthood. There are a lot of jokes, too. The whole thing developed in various stages over four years or so but I the reason I ended up doing this show is because I couldn’t not do it.
HM: In telling your story, what do you hope audiences take away from Situational Anarchy?
GI: It’s a hard question to answer. I just do what I do, and if I did my job, then hopefully an audience feels something. It’s my job to get them to feel something, but I don’t think I get to dictate what that feeling is.
Situational Anarchy is about is about the dissonance between objectively understanding that you’re wrong about something but still feeling like you’re right. What do you do in that situation? The show uses stories to talk about larger themes of identity, mental health, and outsider status. I hope I give audiences a way to relate to what I’m doing. I hope they can see themselves in the show.
HM: The show played at Summerworks last year to some really great reviews. Is this incarnation of the show much different from what audiences experienced at that festival?
GI: It’s not, really. This is an opportunity to put a show that I’m really proud of in front of more people. We also felt that while the play touches on briefly touches on trans issues, we didn’t do enough to support the trans community on the first go around. This time, all proceeds from [door sales] are going to Gender is Over/Trans Life Line. They are two amazing organizations that are doing vital work.
We’re also really happy to be doing the show at Stop, Drop, and Roll, which is an amazing venue/dive bar we’re all big fans of.
HM: What is it about storytelling that attracts you in terms of sharing your work and words on-stage?
GI: It’s a balance between a selfish need to show off and a desperate need to be understood. It’s playing at entertainment and at empathy. When I make someone feel something, and I know that I’ve done it, it is the best feeling in the world. Partly that is because I’ve pulled off a trick that a lot of other people can’t pull off. But it’s also because maybe their reaction means my stupid head that I live inside isn’t so alien after all.
HM: Any plans for another one-person show in the near future… what else are you working on these days?
GI: I am producing two shows this summer with my company Pressgang. The first is a Fringe show called No Place written/performed by Second City House Co. member and frequent collaborator Jillian Welsh. It’s a show at a funeral about what we keep with us and what we leave behind.
In August, I’m directing a show for a festival called Explosions for the 21st Century in which Yale Sound Designer Christopher Ross-Ewart uses a bunch of loud noises to try and examine contemporary culture. There is a glow in the dark fish tank, air horns, and a sincere attempt to engage in the world’s most pressing political issues. It’s kind of wild.
In terms of personal projects? I’ve been trying to do something that’s less about me. I’m working on a play where they internet has become sentient and is attempting to use old hippies with telekinesis for nefarious means. The whole thing started as a bad joke about if Blade Runner was written by the guys from Peep Show, and I’ve now committed a couple of months to the bit. We’ll see how it all turns out.
Busy and exciting times for Isador! I am looking forward to this instalment of Situational Anarchy. You can catch the show at Stop, Drop, and Roll from May 24th – June 3rd. Advanced tickets are $15; door tickets are Pay What You Want. For information on showtimes, dates, and advance tickets, visit pandemictheatre.ca.