GRATITUDE Captures Today's Youth At MainLine Theatre

GRATITUDE Captures Today's Youth At MainLine TheatreCritically acclaimed playwright Oren Safdie has brought Montreal such controversial hits as Unseamly, a nervy play that deals with sexual harassment in the garment industry, and Mr. Goldberg Goes To Tel Aviv, a rollicking farce that jumped head-first into the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Even bolder, Gratitude starts out as an innocent high school crush before snowballing into a life-changing moment for three coming-of-age boys and one girl. Safdie directs this world premiere, playing at MainLine Theatre from Nov. 21-Dec. 2. The subject matter can be disturbing and deals with sexual material. For ages 16+.

Gratitude tells the story of 15 year old Dariya, who attends an exclusive Montreal private high school where she becomes infatuated with Drew, the class stud. Torn between her traditional upbringing and family expectations, and her new sexual awakening, Dariya finds herself caught in a web of her own making that promises liberation even as it might simultaneously lead to her undoing. Safdie's play captures youthful stirrings with all their passions, insecurities and foibles to devastating effect.

The kernel of Safdie's newest work grew out of his own experience attending St. George's School in Montreal. The day he was to start Grade 11, he received a phone call from the boyfriend of a girl in his class, threatening to put two bullets through his head if he showed up at school. From this, he has woven a story of four characters grappling with their newfound sexual urges while discovering the power their bodies have on others. Add to that the emotions of first love, peer pressure, sexual identity and cultural discrepancies, and you have a story that captures the youth of our time in all its complexities.

Safdie is looking forward to directing the show, "Having spent the last few years teaching at the University of Miami and Douglas College in Vancouver, I have been unable to participate in recent productions in New York and Montreal. I miss that feeling of having control over the final content, and in some ways I feel like I'm returning to why I got into theatre in the first place; working in an intimate space, with minimal sets, low tech, and just focusing on the actors and the text," he disclosed.

Bringing Safdie's words to stage will be celebrated playwright/actor Michaela Di Cesare, whose own play, Successions, recently ran to critical acclaim at Centaur Theatre, winning the META (Montreal English Theatre Award) for Outstanding New Text. Asked why she took the role of Darya, a young, conflicted girl struggling for her independence, Di Cesare said, "If a role scares me, I take it. I am frightened because I know there is a chance she will be looked at as a representation of the current feminist cause and there may be parts of her that fail or are imperfect." She adds, "This play is a crucial examination of what happens to young women when autonomy and choice are taken away from them."

Patrick Keeler, currently performing in Teesri Duniya Theatre's Birthmark and META-nominated for his role in Honesty Rents By The Hour, plays Drew, the handsome object of Dariya's ardor. He describes the play as, "Real, biting, clever, honest, dirty and altogether human... Even though my character might be seen as manipulative I think the audience might be surprised by the sympathy they feel for Drew."

Josh, the hopeless romantic, is played by Laurent Pitre, whose show, A Perfect Picture, won Best Solo Show at the Montreal Fringe Festival before transferring to Centaur's Wildside Festival. For Pitre, this show is important for everyone: "Teenagers represent the bridge between the innocence of childhood and the difficult reality of adulthood. This play is a personal challenge-my character goes from the comedic clown to the depths of despair; tackling the Shakespearean intensity, passion and overall impulsiveness of Romeo."

Ben will be played by the accomplished, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, fresh off Choir Boy at Centaur Theatre and seen last season in Infinithéâtre's Fight On! Part 1.

Set and costume design by Bruno-Pierre Houle (Scapegoat Carnivale's Sapientia); Amy Blackmore, who collaborated with Safdie on Unseamly and directs/choreographs Montreal's annual The Rocky Horror Show musical, handles the choreography; Caitlin Heiligmann is assistant director and the stage manager is Gabriel Mandeville.

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