Sesaya specializes in music and arts education.
Rosa Laborde has a way with words. And sometimes, as an actor and award-winning playwright, those words have their way with her. Her latest play Marine Life will be presented at the Alameda Theatre Company’s 6th Annual De Colores Festival of New Works by Latin-Canadian Playwrights on Friday October 18. When we talk about it, I’m not quite sure who has the upper hand: her or the play, which has been morphing into something unexpected.
I’m a writer who likes to do background research, so I ask Rosa to suggest articles that could enlighten my questions about Marine Life. Her response? “I wouldn’t read any of them. The play was reviewed before it was really a play–totally in the workshop stages–so it has changed a lot since then. Completely different outcome!”
What Rosa will say is that Marine Life is “about a young woman who is very concerned about the state of marine life and dedicates herself to environmental activism.” Her “fraught” personal life and relationships both threaten and echo this straightforward-seeming premise. ”She is also of the belief that humans evolved from fish, a less well-known theory of evolution” and one which informs the play’s title.
This rich blend of eco-sensitivity, relationship politics and comedy (yes, she insists, this is a black comedy and audiences should expect to laugh) has been further complicated by the “mysterious journey of trial and error” through which the play has been taking on a life of its own. What is it turning into? A meditation on “many things. The complexities of life on land. The absence of perfection. Love, destruction of the environment, mental illness, codependence, symbiosis, plastic’s inextricable hold on our day-to-day existence, climate change, rain, floods.” As she sardonically notes, “No easy answers here.”
And no easy process either. She compares writing this play to “an itch, a compulsion” which has been scratched by “conversation” with audiences through the reading and performance of early drafts: “With the perspective of an audience, I’m able to discern what I gravitate to in the piece and move forward from that point of knowledge.”
“Previous incarnations of Marine Life have been deep in the exploratory stages,” she says, “and this upcoming reading (at the De Colores Festival) will still be, though it is now considerably more fleshed out.” The play, she admits, surprises her a lot. “Sometimes I just wait and wait and wait until the character tells me what it’s going to do and then I think ‘really? You’re doing that??’ It’s either really cool or really ridiculous — to be at the mercy of an invented character!”
On Friday night, Rosa will be all eyes and ears. She hopes the audience will take away from Marine Life an understanding that “the way we treat each other as humans is mirrored in the way we treat our environment. What’s more, our healing as a society and a planet comes from a holistic interdependence. And regardless of our walks of life, education, income or social status, when it comes to environmental disaster, we all end up in the same boat.”
And perched between her demanding characters and her audience collaborators, she’ll be looking for signs that her play just might be finished.
What: Marine Life by Rosa Laborde (full play reading), directed by Guillermo Verdecchia and dramaturged by Stephen Colella.
When: Friday October 18, 2013, 8 pm
Where: De Colores Festival of New Works by Latin-Canadian Playwrights at Wychwood Barns Theatre, 601 Christie Street.
© 2013 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya