Where did the idea for this project come from?
Soheil Parsa: I’ve always wanted to be considered as a theatre artist first and foremost, but there is no denying that Modern Times has been working in an intercultural way for years, and that this has become a part of the company’s identity. These days I am very curious to understand how our particular approach to interculturalism can contribute to the cultural diversification of Toronto’s stages. I would like to see the walls isolating diversity in the theatre to come down, really come down.
Peter Farbridge: With the project “Postmarginal”, we are proposing that working in an intercultural environment can be other things than simply a social exercise. I believe that Modern Times and other companies have successfully shown over the years that the integration of diversity constitutes a new way of exploring theatre, an unconscious expression of creation, on par with, let’s say, post-modernism.
How has your history in the company shaped these beliefs?
Parsa: The cultural differences between Peter and I are something that we successfully navigated very early on in our professional relationship as director and actor. We came together from two separate worlds, always focused on the work, and this give and take was important to shaping how I view intercultural creation now–there is the recognition that the ‘other’ is always a part of us somewhere.
Farbridge: In a way, it’s also why we’re proposing two sides to Postmarginal. First, the practical workshop explores directing and acting by examining relationships of difference in rehearsal. The symposium examines the artistic and, to a lesser degree, systemic processes by which cultural diversity can become completely integrated into theatre creation in widely-accepted techniques.
So what does “Postmarginal” mean?
Farbridge: It’s a term that could be used to describe a new approach to creating theatre in which ‘us’ and ‘them’ can interact creatively in such a way that both become transformed.
Parsa: It’s not about replacing specific cultural perspectives–I work a lot in my own community, the Persian community, and feel very rewarded by the experience. I am proud of my roots. All these wonderful sources of creation, culturally specific or not, are so important to the fabric of the city. For some communities, identity politics are a very necessary artistic endeavour. We are simply proposing a new approach to creation that can add a layer of diversity in theatre- making.
What do you hope to get out of the symposium ‘Beyond Representation’?
Farbridge: We are bringing together some of the most interesting creators and people invested in cultural diversity to talk about this idea in a more profound way. We are interested in hearing from the community to debate its merits and its drawbacks. Our hope is that we can discuss openly about how integrating cultural diversity into the arts can be a source of creative inspiration, and not only a political necessity.