Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
Last week, Carrie: the musical debuted in Toronto at the venerable Hart House Theatre. It seems important that this iconic story is being presented now with a diverse cast of young performers, and exploring the still-pertinent themes of bullying, conformity, religion and relationships – and the extent to which a victim might resort when pushed too far. This week, Toronto high-school students will have the opportunity to see the musical during a special student matinee and experience firsthand how these themes resonate with them.
In anticipation of the show’s opening, last week SesayArts spoke with Tiyana Scott who plays the title role of Carrie and Brittany Miranda, who portrays her repressive mother Margaret for an insight into the production and their respective roles in “Bullies Beware…Carrie’s Back”. In this second part of our feature, we speak with Madison Sekulin, who plays Chris Hargenson, the meanest of the mean girls and Carrie’s chief tormentor, as well as Jordan Kenny, who plays Tommy Ross, the uncertain but ultimately compliant accomplice to Chris’ prank. For both actors, the societal prevalence of bullying in various forms is a sobering thought that is top of mind. Both speak cogently about the common need to work toward a place of greater understanding so that the kind of experiences relayed in Carrie’s story – which too frequently becomes a sad news story – can be prevented in real life.
SesayArts: What did you expect when you came to this production? What did you get?
Madison Sekulin: Coming into this experience I was excited and scared to play such a complex and darker character, something I haven’t had much experience with before. There are some aspects I found easier than I imagined and some that were more difficult or didn’t strike me as a challenge until I began the rehearsal process.
Jordan Kenny: When I was originally cast in the show I wasn’t fully aware of what I was getting into. I had never read the novel or seen the movie at that point! As soon as I was graciously given the role of Tommy, I dove into the world of Stephen King and the novel version of Carrie. That research gave me a greater understanding of the pain that not only that Carrie as the victim receives, but also helped me to understand the abuse that human beings are capable of inflicting on one another.
SesayArts: Carrie: the Musical deals with some difficult and disturbing topics which linger in the psyche…In playing your role, how do you protect your own emotions?
Madison Sekulin: It’s definitely helpful to be able to relate to your character, but it can be tricky to find the right balance of personal connection. I find it easiest to use my own connection to get into character before a show, and then, once I’m in character, everything I do is personal to Chris rather than myself. I also like to use safe substitutions; for instance, if there is a tricky moment or scene that I know I need extra preparation for, it is helpful to find something from your own life that can make you relate to the moment.
Jordan Kenny: Especially within the musical, Richard (Ouzounian) has made sure that the dark undertones of the novel are prevalent within the musical, which definitely makes some of the scenes difficult to watch. What helps me protect my emotions is that I’m stepping into one world that I can easily step out of once I’m finished. I feel that it’s important to feel those emotions, but also important to realize that this is not the emotional state I’m living in.
SesayArts: Of the many themes that Carrie: the Musical explores, which resonate with you? What do you hope the audience will be talking about after the show?
Madison Sekulin: The theme of bullying is most prominent, and I know everyone relates to this in their own way. Personally, I think the need to feel accepted is what I can connect to the most. This can be relevant in so many different parts of our lives, and it’s easy to get stuck in caring what others’ opinions of you are.
I would like people to walk away from the show realizing that extreme bullying situations could possibly be prevented if a bully gets help before it’s too late. We see lots of news about school shootings and other situations where, similar to Carrie, a victim is pushed too far by a bully and ends up hurting others. There is always a reason that someone is choosing to bully someone, and it could be prevented if people reached out to bullies as well as the victim to see what’s going on, and a small gesture like that could prevent many tragic situations.
Jordan Kenny: One of the themes that resonates with me within the musical would be the theme of relationship. The relationships between every character have similarities as well as differences. The relationships between the couples differ in how they treat each other, either through the couple’s passion or conflict with their own desires and needs. And also the relationship between the characters and Carrie, which, for most characters, seems to be an aggressive and violent relationship, which finally ends in major destruction.
I want the audience to take away, that even though this is an older novel and movie, the act of abuse, whether is be physical, mental, verbal and cyber, is still highly prevalent in high schools and in everyday life, and we need as a society find away to help eliminate this problem.
News You Can Use
What: Carrie: the Musical by Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lawrence D. Cohen
Who: Audiences 14 years of age and up
When: Onstage until February 4, 2017
Where: Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H3
For Information and Tickets: HartHouse.ca or 416.978.8849