New Calgary play examines gender roles in storytelling

Play challenges views on gender stereotypes in sex assault

Chantelle Han plays the role of Aiden in Downstage Theatre's world premiere production of Smoke. COURTESY - Roadwest Pictures/Alex Robinson

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Calgary-based Downstage Theatre is on the eve of the world premiere of their new play Smoke, which they hope will allow audience members to tackle their own views about gender, sexuality, and sexual assault.

Written by Alberta playwright Elena Eli Belyea and directed by Calgarian Christine Brubaker, Smoke is the story of Jordan and Aiden. Jordan is accused by Aidan of sexual assault two years prior to the plays setting, at a graduation party for the two characters.

What makes Smoke unique is that the role of Jordan will be played by both a woman and a man, on alternating evenings; this is meant to represent both an opposite-sex and same-sex couple. The role of Jordan will be played by Alexandra Dawkins and Joel David Taylor respectively.

“We each have our own take on the character, but such an important part of the show is how gender stereotypes affect our view of different actions and how they are perceived,” said Taylor.

This is an intentional decision.

“It’s exploring specifically what gender does to the story,” added Brubaker.

Brubaker has also found herself interpreting the story differently depending on the Jordan.

“Literally, I can interpret something so differently whether it is coming out of the mouth of a woman or the mouth of a man.”

“We try to view each other equally but we simply can’t. The gender lens is so thick and we are not even aware of what it makes us feel,” she added.

The play is meant to be seen as two sides of the same coin, and both Brubaker and Taylor believe that viewers will get a much more complete picture if they see both versions. The play is not meant to provide patrons with answers, but simply start a conversation and make them think.

“The show is about their confrontation.

“It is about loss and pain, and whether reconciliation can be found,” added Taylor.

Smoke is presented by Downstage running Feb. 13-23 at the Big Secret Theatre. For more information and tickets visit downstage.ca or call 403-294-9494

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