Spotlight on carried away on the crest of a waveBy David Siegel • Oct 30th, 2013 • Category: Interviews
“What rips us apart, ties us all together” is the way Fairfax’s professional Hub Theatre describes carried away on the crest of a wave by Canadian playwright David Yee. Carried Away explores how a singular, cataclysmic event–the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami–illustrates the interconnectedness of all things told through stories about the survivors. The play searches into what happens when the events that tie us together are the same that tear us apart.
Helen Pafumi, Hub Artistic Director
I have a great affinity for Canadian writers and the incredible Tarragon Theatre in Toronto produced the world premier of carried away. I had actually reached out to Tarragon’s literary director about a completely different play, but she was so certain I would love David Yee’s work that she sent his play too, along with a note insisting I take a look. I am so very glad she did.
Q. What are the attractions of Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave that lead you to make it the opening production of the Hub season?
carried away deals with the aftermath of an incredibly huge event in a unique way. The writing is poetic, gutsy and wonderfully thoughtful. Although the enormity of the 2004 tsunami is nothing short of devastating, David has allowed us into individual’s healing, rebuilding, sadness and hope. All these stories are based on true events, interviews with survivors, and stories from a day that consumed 250,000 people. And even with that kind of loss, this is a play that embraces life. At a time of year when we give thanks, I thought it very fitting to share a production that highlights the fragility and beauty of life.
Q. Tell me a bit about the technical aspects of the production. What can the audience expect?
Because the play centers around an event and aftermath that would be impossible to replicate, I was interested in capturing the tsunami’s moment of impact in a more metaphorical way. The set is a statement piece, almost installation art, and the sound, costumes and lights will guide us into the varied locations that need to be created for these many different stories. The audience can expect a play that is at times shocking, heartbreaking and surprisingly funny as well. It is a many leveled journey that is very worth taking.
David Yee, Playwright
David Yee was born and raised in Toronto. He is currently the Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, which he also co-founded. fu-GEN Theatre Company is Canada’s only professional Asian Canadian theatre company. A Dora Mavor Moore Award nominated actor and playwright, his work has been produced in Canada and internationally. His play, lady in the red dress, was nominated for the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award and is published by Playwrights Canada Press.
Q. You are a playwright that many Washington, DC area audiences may not know. If you had 2-3 sentences, how would you introduce yourself and your works to a new audience?
A. First thing: I’m Canadian. So it’s okay that you’ve never heard of me. Second thing: the work will bring you somewhere unexpected. This, I think, is my job as a writer: to lead you to a place you never knew was out there.
Q. What were some of your biggest challenges in crafting carried away on the crest of a wave?
A. As you might expect, when the subject matter is considered one of the ten deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, there will always be stories which can’t be told. Some are too large, or deserve their own dedicated telling, or require too much historical context to fully appreciate the impact. I had to take everything I learned in five years about this epic event and distill it, not as an event-log of the incident, rather as an extra-narrative account of how it impacted people. I’ve always said that this disaster was like dropping a stone in still water; and my interest was not in writing about the stone, but about the ripples it created.
Another fairly unique and annoying challenge is the fact that I’m aquaphobic. I have a persistent fear of water. So even though there are a number of videos that captured the waves on that day, I can’t watch any of them. I’ve seen animated time-lapse reconstructions and read all the data, but seeing the actual water terrifies me, always has.
Q. What do you want audiences to come away with after they see carried away on the crest of a wave?
A. Hope. That’s the big thing. It’s the thing I didn’t expect to find when I set out to write the play, to begin with. But it’s there. In every interview I did, every story I was told from survivors, some people who had lost everything…their stories were stories of hope. Just not the way you’d expect to find it.
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David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.