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STATE OF DENIAL to Run 10/8-25 at Segal Centre

By: Sep. 21, 2015
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As we currently witness in the forefront of worldwide daily news, there's no hiding from countries' hideous reaction to 'other'. Teesri Duniya Theatre, in collaboration with the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Canada (AGCCC), is honoured to present Rahul Varma's State of Denial from October 8-25 at Segal Centre Studio. This moving and unsettling play, directed by Liz Valdez, highlights the urgent need to counter denials of gendered violence, ethnic cleansing and racial rivalry. Continuing their mandate to encourage dialogue, the company will hold a talkback with invited guests after each matinee performance.

Set in contemporary Canada and Turkey of 1915, State of Denial links the Turkish-denied Armenian genocide of 1915 with the 1995 genocide in Rwanda, connecting them through the Canadian diaspora experience. When Odette, a Rwandan-born Canadian filmmaker, travels to Turkey to investigate stories of genocide and hidden identity, she interviews Sahana, an elderly and respected Muslim woman who has devoted her life to assisting Armenian survivors. On her deathbed, Sahana confesses a chilling secret that challenges a long-standing state of denial that Odette promises to make public at any personal cost.

Making up the talented, multi-ethnic cast is Susan Bain, Victoria Barkoff, Liana Bdéwi, Jimmy Blais, Michaela Di Cesare, Eric Hausknost, Saro Saroyan and Warona Setshwaelo.

Adolf Hitler to his army commanders, August 22, 1939:

"I have sent my death-head units with the orders to kill without compassion or mercy all men, women and children of Polish race or language. Who still talks nowadays about the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Rahul Varma, awarded playwright and Artistic Director of Teesri Duniya Theatre, tells stories that would otherwise never be told. The fictional State of Denial is derived from multiple true stories from the research project, Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and other Human Rights Violations housed at Concordia University. Varma affirms, "The stories of elsewhere are Canadian stories affecting all citizens. They go beyond biography and facts, revealing truth while instigating further inquiry. My aim is to address global issues locally." An earlier workshop production of the piece was performed in 2012.

Director Liz Valdez finds the work incredibly important in this era when we believe we are so aware and well-informed, yet there are devastating historical events that most people don't know anything about. She explains, "These events lead to others, then happen over and over in different horrific ways and for different reasons. The question we need to ask isn't who is to blame, but what should our dialogue be, and when can women have more say in that dialogue?" Valdez emphasizes that ultimately, it is women and children who suffer at the hands of men in these wars, "The relationship between the women is the most important one in the storytelling. Their perspectives and experiences don't come from their own choices but from ones that men made for them in times of war, dispute and horror. The story lies in uncovering the layers of what women do to keep going, keep surviving, keep loving and healing; how to live with the truth we need and the truth that actually is."

Odette: "In keeping the secrets surrounding my family, I have negated their lives."

For Mher Karakachian, Chairman of AGCCC, denial has been rightly considered as the last phase of the crime of genocide, "Survivors and scholars alike have repeatedly reminded us that that forgetting or denying such a monstrous crime kills the victims twice. State of Denial vividly portrays this tragic fact and in the most creative ways, brings the ongoing ploys of denialism under the spotlight. On the somber occasion of the centennial of the Armenian genocide, Varma's play lights a beacon to confront the darkness that still looms in many corners of the globe."

Liana Bdéwi is an Armenian actor who plays Sinam. She grew up learning about the genocide, "It's been ingrained in me since I was a kid and is a topic that is still so sensitive, despite the 100 year anniversary this year. I'm excited to have the opportunity to represent my heritage and community in an impactful and artistic way."

Moving audiences through time and across continents, and working with images of layers, truth and distortion, are creative designers Laurence Gagnon, set and co-video design; Elahe Marjovi, costumes; Audrey-Anne Bouchard, lights; Devon Bate, composer and sound design; and Andrew Scriver, co-video design. Deborah Forde is the assistant director and the stage manager is Birdie Gregor.

Teesri Duniya Theatre is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities. The mission of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Canada is to prevent and raise public awareness about genocides and crimes against humanity as well as to denounce revisionism and genocide-denial. It promotes fundamental principles of truth, justice, accountability and responsibility in matters of all human rights. They are working on a tour of the show.


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