Theatre students explore identity and human connection in Seven Doors

Seven Doors features lip-synced musical numbers, shadow puppets, video projection, interviews with the audience, tragedy and comedy. Dylan Hewlett

The University of Winnipeg’s third-year acting honours class is set to begin performances of Botho Strauss’s Seven Doors on Feb. 12.

The class’s interpretation of the German playwright’s postmodern piece includes lip-synced musical numbers, shadow puppets, video projection, interviews with the audience, tragedy and comedy.

The play, composed of 11 episodic scenes instead of one traditional narrative, concentrates on issues of identity and the difficulty in making connections with other human beings, according to director Christopher Brauer.

Brauer says his choice to produce Strauss’s absurdly dark comedy came from his own interest in the play and its ability to offer challenging roles to all members of the cast.

“At this stage in their training, we’re looking for opportunities for them to practice their craft,” he said.

“I’ve been choosing for the third-year shows these kinds of episodic pieces where everybody is the lead in their episodes. That way everybody gets a really meaty chunk to work on.”

Through the project, Brauer hopes to explore modes of storytelling alternative to linear narratives.

He explains that more traditional modernist stories have characters that progress over time while the postmodern perspective argues there is no linear progression.

“For the audience, it can be about experiencing something rather than understanding,” he said. “We’re trying not to satisfy certain dramatic expectations.”

Christina Heather, a Seven Doors cast member, plays a philosophically inclined fashionista with a solid understanding of what she wants while car shopping, as well as an unfortunately lonely bride.

“It’s her wedding day, but nobody came to the wedding,” Heather said. “So she’s trying to puzzle her way through that.”

Heather hopes the guestless bride’s misfortune will help illustrate a theme recurring throughout the play.

“The idea of just how difficult it is to make real, truthful connections with other people - that’s present in all of the scenes so that’s something we’re hoping the audience can take away,” she said.

Finding dynamic, believable characters beneath the bizarre situations was both difficult and rewarding, according to Heather. 

“When you’re acting, you always want to play the truth of a character; you want to get to that realness and truth. Being able to find that within these totally absurd characters has definitely been a learning experience.”

Cast member and student Johanna Burdon says that despite the dismal circumstances of the characters, the play packs a comedic punch.

“It’s funny. It’s a dark comedy for sure,” she said. “It’s really just making fun of humans. A security guard who hires a bodyguard - it’s funny.”

Burdon plays an insecure security guard whose lack of courage leads to the hiring of a bodyguard, a tough camerawoman with cargo pants full of gadgets, and an intolerant nun happy to condemn the behaviour of other characters.

“They’re all so different,” Burdon said. “I get to have a lot of fun physically.”

Seven Doors runs from Tuesday, Feb. 12 to Friday, Feb. 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film at 400 Colony St. Showtimes are 8 p.m. nightly, with a 7 p.m. performance on Saturday, Feb. 16. Admission is free.

Published in Volume 67, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 7, 2013)

Related Reads