Urban Curvz play explores our relationship to difference

We all have the urge whether we admit or not to stare at someone who’s different deformed or possibly “monstrous.” (That is of course the primordial drive behind freak shows.) Out of respect most of us only look for a short time if at all; but Urban Curvz Theatre’s next show Monstrosities allows us not only to stare at but to learn the stories of three “monstrous” women.

What exactly does that mean? Performers and writers Kristi Hansen and Vanessa Sabourin don’t want to reveal too much in advance preferring to let the audience react to what’s onstage without preconceived ideas. “We tried to keep the monstrosity in the realm of the physical… something you can’t hide from” says Sabourin. Hansen hints that one of the “monstrosities” is an illness one is a matter of choice and another is something the character was born with. (Interestingly they are all based in some way on true situations and people.) The play unfolds in three 20-minute monologues performed by Hansen Sabourin and Amber Borotsik.

Of course the show is about more than just the monstrosities themselves. The play began in 2012 as part of the One Yellow Rabbit Lab Intensive and was developed into a full-length play by Edmonton company The Maggie Tree (which Hansen and Sabourin co-founded). Both The Maggie Tree and Urban Curvz place women and their work at the centre of their mandates which perhaps helps contextualize Monstrosities . “I try really hard to create work that is for everyone that is not limited to a feminine experience or a feminine audience; I don’t like to be marginalized even by ourselves” says Sabourin. “I think that there is something about having courage in who you are. It’s particularly challenging sometimes to women [that] it is easy to be swayed by other people’s perception of you of what you should be and what you are allowed to be.”

Audiences need not fear a didactic play however. “[Audiences] are not going to be judged for how they respond and they’re also not coming to witness victims” says Sabourin. “It’s about the relationship between empowerment and disempowerment both from the outside and from within.”

Although the play is structured as monologues actors are never really alone onstage; sound design by Aaron Macri and projections by Erin Gruber pull their weight too with Hansen describing them as another character. Each of the three characters has a different relationship to the media onstage ranging from a more interactive animation to a visceral moody backdrop to rough documentary footage.

What Monstrosities seeks to tap into is our relationship to difference — whatever that may be. And to take that one step further “We are striving to look beyond our differences towards our sameness” says Sabourin. “I hope people come away with something to talk about and something to question and something to research in their own lives.”