It is solved by honesty

Play examines woman’s journey

Margaret learns that her ex-husband has just died in a car accident. The tragedy sends her back to their relationship and she unearths several regrets and disappointments. She asks herself: Why did the marriage fall apart? Why didn’t Iever fulfil my dreams to be a writer and a scholar? Goaded by her favourite poet Wallace Stevens Margaret struggles to look at her broken marriage from beyond her own biased lenses and come to terms with the role she played in her life’s letdowns.

Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Catherine Banks wrote her new play It Is Solved By Walking premiering this week with Urban Curvz Theatre while riding on the shoulders of Stevens and his famous poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” While reading the first stanza she paid attention to the sensations the poem generated in her. The impressions stirred inside her chest compelling her to write the play and for two years she awoke each morning read a stanza then wrote.

Similar to Banks Margaret is an admirer of Stevens whose Blackbirds poem figures into her life in a big way. The poet himself appears to her in the play stirring up powerful feelings in Margaret’s heart.

“Margaret uses the poem to go back through her married life” Banks says. “And through that she comes to the place where she has to accept her part in the loss of the marriage. And that’s really her journey. ‘Why did I get into this marriage? And what was my 50 per cent responsibility for the downfall of the marriage?’”

The director of the Urban Curvz production Kathryn Waters notes that the play is about Margaret’s need to come to terms with truth. Many plays in the past have dealt with a character hiding from a harsh reality. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for example deals with one woman’s persistent need to live her life according to an incredible lie. Banks’s play is different Waters says. “Margaret has been only viewing her history from one perspective. From a perspective of someone with a great deal of hurt and regret. It’s about her rounding her perspective.” In other words it’s not that Margaret is lying to herself but rather that she looks at her history in a one-sided way and her struggle is to take in her husband’s point of view.

“To me” Banks says “by the end of the play she’s at the most still place she’s been in her life where there is no place to hide. That’s her journey.”

Waters believes that poetry is very complementary to Margaret’s struggle. The best poets she says are conduits for a mystical kind of truth expressed from their own unique perspective in their own unique way. Margaret is filled with distorted ways of looking at her life which keep her from being that conduit for truth in her own writing. Waters says that Margaret needs to be honest with herself so that she can find that place of stillness and write poetry imbued with a genuine truthful outlook.

The mystical truth of Stevens’s poetry is part of what pushes Margaret on. Her mind and ego tell her one thing but the sensations stirred up in her heart by poetry clash and tell her something else. When Stevens himself appears onstage he doesn’t make things easier for her. Wherever Margaret is in her journey Stevens is there like an imaginary friend driving her to a place she doesn’t want to go. Sometimes he pushes her gently. Other times he’s harsh.

Of course it isn’t Stevens prodding her along but Margaret’s imagination. Stevens is merely a manifestation of her heart guiding her to a place she knows she needs to go.

“Truth is not always beautiful” Waters says “but it is freeing. And to experience truth in that way — as opposed to having all this defensiveness and to assign all this negative energy to a situation — to put it in its place and accept your part in [that negative situation] there’s a great freedom in that.”