Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meet Eliot

My name is Aslam Husain - I’m playing Eliot in Twenty-Something Theatre’s production of Prodigals. I’m a graduate of UBC’s acting program and I’ve been working professionally for two years with companies like Green Thumb, Carousel and most recently with the Chemainus Theatre Festival.

Whenever I work with a new theatre company I like to familiarize myself with their mandate. Actors are ultimately the executors of that mandate (at least, on stage), so I feel it’s important to understand what you are advocating.

So, let’s take a look at Twenty-Something Theatre’s mandate: producing provocative, relevant, contemporary theatre for the next generation. This makes Twenty-Something theatre an integral part of Vancouver’s theatre ecology, not only because it provides a training ground where young professionals can hone their craft, but also because it seeks to foster a love of the theatre in a generation largely uninterested in the medium. Most of the twenty-somethings you see at the theatre are part of the community already: they are aspiring actors, directors, writers etc. The real battle lies with those who have yet to join the cause and fall in love with theatre. And, unfortunately, that’s the majority of the twenty-something demographic. But how can we hope to vie for their attention when we’re competing against the spectacular culture of instant entertainment and 3D movies?

The liveness of the theatre is the answer. Working for Green Thumb and Carousel I have seen the joy of a child’s first experience with live theatre: it is so wonderfully alien, exciting and unique to them. I think of Twenty-Something Theatre as the continuation of this joyful indoctrination process.

But we twenty-somethings are a hard crowd to win over. I know that I am less accessible than a six year old; I hide comfortably behind the cynical and critical wall of young adulthood. So how do you raze those defenses? By mounting a production that is relevant to the twenty-something experience - that is, a production that is reflective. Witnessing one’s own struggles played out by characters on a stage can reach even the most jaded of skeptics.

And that’s exactly what Sean Minogue’s play Prodigals achieves. It truly is a play for twenty-somethings by twenty-somethings about twenty-somethings.

Inhabiting Eliot’s character has been a difficult process for this very reason. Exploring the conflicts in his life have exacerbated those of my own: I’m no longer a teenager, I no longer have the shelter of school, no longer the potential of pursuing any career I want. I’ve made choices and I’m living with them. Many of them I regret. I want to start all over again, but I can’t. I feel forced to dismantle the illusions of my youth. I feel entitled to so much, and yet my dreams have failed to manifest themselves. I’m disillusioned and I’m angry about it.

If you, like me, are frustrated by life (and really, who isn’t?) then come see Prodigals for some validation and a little bit of hope. And bring along your non-theatre friends; we might just have them hooked by the end of the night.

(Photos courtesy of Aslam Husain)

~Aslam Husain
Eliot, Prodigals

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