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TiFT explores 'gender expression beyond the traditional interpretations of Western society,' says producer

'For Both Resting and Breeding' opens April 12 at Five Points Theatre
Jakob Ehman
Jakob Ehman stars in TiFT's 'For Both Resting and Breeding', opening in April. Photo provided

After exploring the 18th century with Candide and Amadeus, Barrie’s Talk is Free Theatre asks us to consider the future, by way of the present – in Adam Meisner’s play For Both Resting and Breeding, a “futuristic satire” premiering next month.

What might a world without gender look like? And how might we be remembered a century-and-a-half from now? The subterranean world of this play lies at the intersection of these two big questions, TiFT artistic producer Arkady Spivak tells BarrieToday, adding the juxtaposition of present and future provides, “a very powerful vantage point, I find.”

Spivak also says playwright Meisner goes after “the hypocrisy of heteronormative structures and challenge(s) assumptive, binary ideas of gender and sexuality.”

Meisner strives “to create a theatre piece that provides a deeper understanding, (and) context… towards gender expression beyond the traditional interpretations of Western society.

“At a time when transgender rights are being heavily scrutinized and politicized as a repercussion of increased visibility, we think it is more important to work towards creating alternative resources that provide a global and historical context to the understanding of gender outside of the assumptive superiority of most heterosexual cultures.”

Plain English: we should value and celebrate our differences instead of holding them against one another.

For Both Resting and Breeding is set in the year 2150 where humans have become gender-neutral and now use the pronoun ‘Ish’ to identify themselves. The characters dress the same, style their hair mostly the same, and use similar mannerisms and vocal intonations (and where these differ from person to person, they are not easily marked as masculine or feminine).

“The numbers in each character’s name,” Spivak explains, “refer to their age, while the ‘ish’ in front of the number is a gender-neutral pronoun simultaneously replacing she/her/hers and he/him/his, in the world of these characters.”

Two historians, whom Meisner dubs ISH56 and ISH62, want to transform an old residence, built in 1999, into a living museum commemorating millennials for their society’s upcoming sesquicentennial.

“As the museum is being created,” says Spivak, “members of the group become too enamoured with their gendered counterparts and eventually start to re-enact the dangerous behaviours of their ancestors.”

Meisner and director Brandon Crone hope to educate their audience to “contemplate the absurdity of gender association altogether while also interpret for themselves what values can be distinguished through the dualities of men and women.”

The play uses satire to “dismantle traditional gender roles through a projected future society that has attained peace and unity as a result of abandoning gender identity.”

Crone guides a small cast of actors – Maja Ardel, Jakob Ehman, Xavier Lopez, Vanessa Smythe and Alexander Thomas – through this world of the future. 

Ehman himself has been quoted in the program notes as saying, “I love that this story takes place far in the future and yet is not caught up in how technology has evolved. Instead it examines a far more interesting question: How did human beings evolve?”  

Spivak is effusive in commending Ottawa resident Meisner, making his debut as a produced playwright.

“I don't remember being as excited by a new work before. It has giant things to say, and because of that it says them in a terrifically original way. Even if Adam doesn't write again, his mark on Canadian theatre will be greater than the entire canon of many others.

“But, of course, he will write again.”

Talk is Free Theatre’s production of For Both Resting and Breeding opens Thursday, April 12 at the Five Points Theatre, 1 Dunlop St. W., and runs through April 21. For more information, click here.

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Glenn Wilkins

About the Author: Glenn Wilkins

Glenn Wilkins, in a 30-year media career, has written for print and electronic media, as well as for TV and radio. Glenn has two books under his belt, profiling Canadian actors on Broadway and NHL coaches.
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