Ryerson Community Theatre’s annual festival explores human vulnerability

With four plays that were able to take audiences from one world of experiences to another, the Ryerson Community Theatre has outdone themselves with Outland. While different on the surface and occasionally hilarious, the plays all reflected emotions that are common in everyone: fear, longing and regret.

The actors grabbed the audience by their heart strings and pulled them into the sorrow of the characters. Students used sound, light and set design to mock the characters and mimic the emotions they projected. The plays flowed like a cohesive unit of creativity, talent and hard-work.

Resident Sleeper was about a dystopian future in which humans did not have to sleep anymore because of advanced technologies, but lost the emotional sides of being human as a consequence. The main character, Jim Rockwell, played by Bryan Chu, went to sleep—and he wanted it again. Jim’s euphoria was quickly exploited by doctors and his removal from society left audiences with a lingering feeling of anger as his taste of independence was unwillingly stripped from him.

In Memory of Carmen, a play that takes five characters on a journey into understanding Carmen, a woman they all once loved. RSJ/Andrea Josic

In Memory of Carmen explored five characters and their relationship to one special woman: Carmen (played by Serena Kaur Dhillon). Throughout the play, it was revealed that Carmen’s manipulative personality and eventual decay to Alzheimer’s destroyed her relationship with each character. The play’s intentions were successful: trigger the audience’s bitterness as they travelled between flashbacks and present-day with each character’s story involving Carmen. The climax of the play features ChangKhun Kim as Carmen’s fiancée, Francis, whose descent into regret and self-blame creates a thick silence in the room. Kim admitted it wasn’t difficult to play Francis because he knew the audience would be able to connect to the story.

“You’re sharing this not only with your cast but the audience as well, and there is something universal about losing someone you love,” said Kim. “I think it resonates strongly because you’re portraying something that really happened to you.”

Chris haunts Ana, blaming her for his death. She asks him to leave her alone as her guilt resurfaces and causes tension between the two. RSJ/Andrea Josic

In I Was Here Once, Ana, played by Julia Knope, moves home and finds herself haunted by the ghost of her younger brother, Chris, played by Alexander Tersigni. Through harsh dialogue in a simple setting, the audience has no distractions from feeling the hot flashes of regret that wash over Ana as she begins to blame herself for her brother’s suicide. Both seeking peace, the play develops and comes to a peaceful close as Chris’ bitterness and Ana’s desperation for forgiveness from both herself and her brother leaves the characters and the audience satisfied.

The Sleeper, played by Vicky Wang, facing the demon she imagines is haunting her and eventually embraces her fears as being a part of herself. RSJ/Andrea Josic

A story rooted in loneliness, 3 A.M. explores the deeper meaning behind those who find themselves restless and sleep-deprived by their thoughts. The audience is able to feel several characters’ journeys to self-discovery through a complex setting and lighting that exposes vulnerabilities at their core. In the Sleeper’s story, played by Vicky Wang, dark lighting emphasize the Sleeper’s fears while the loud and eerie sounds draw the audience into the chaos of the Sleeper’s mind. While many stories feature two characters who were written to interact, one of the most meaningful interactions was unintentional. Riley, also played by Julia Knope, a character who struggles with her mental health, listens to the eccentric 3 A.M. radio show hosted by Jackie, played by Michael Maksimenko, every night. Jackie always wonders: “Is there anybody out there?” not knowing that his show was the reason why Riley was able to hold on.

Masimenko, who also played Atticus in In Memory of Carmen, said that the two characters he played were originally very similar in their quirkiness and how they added to the story. “The more we practiced these plays, the more we realized that the difference was that In Memory of Carmen is a play where we had to keep a consistent tone. That’s where 3 A.M. branched off, because there was more room to be silly.”

The purpose of Outland is clear: combine plays that, despite having strikingly different plots, will all leave the same impression on the audience. Resident Sleeper, In Memory of Carmen, I Was Here Once and 3 A.M. made audiences understand the severity of loss, the scarring impact of regret, and the consuming feeling of longing.

Outland was a demonstration of the hard work and talent that is abundant at Ryerson. Play submissions for next year’s performance open at the end of September 2017.

Full Credits

Resident Sleeper — written by Tyler McLaurin, directed by Jaclyn Nobrega
In Memory of Carmen — directed and written by Bronwen Spolsky
I Was Here Once — written by Meagan Gove, directed by Mieka Shade
3 A.M. — written and directed by Janine Fernandes