Stewart Productions - Jujubes

For a number of years I ran my own theatre production company, Stewart Productions. The company began when my first play, Jujubes, was accepted for Harvest, the Montreal GLBT Theatre Festival. It was inspired by an evening of partying that ended with four guys hanging out in an apartment. It was an exploration of casual friendships, the boundaries between people, and the closeness that can be shared in unexpected moments.

Photo by Bryn Symonds
Flyer design by Marc Beaulieu

You can learn a lot about yourself by being shallow. Four men are living out the narcissism that is not egoism but fear: pride that survives by visiting indignities upon each other, the unease in our inner-monologues and in our dialogues. Out from under the disco ball talking sex, art, culture, music, relationships, STD’s... Just words left in the air, concealing the fear of self-exposure. What do you talk about when you can’t be vulnerable?

This was my first play and, unfortunately, we didn’t record much of the publicity we did for it.

We did, however, take home one of the 2004 Harvest Festival Awards.

Winner: Most notable STAND-OUT promotion and publicity campaign

Press release by Marc Beaulieu

Below is a rather charming letter written by Peter Rochon, a local painter, that was part of the application to the festival.

Reference letter from a peer group member

Village Scene Productions
P.O. Box 142, Station C
Montreal, Qc. Canada
H2L 2A0

VSP Submission Review Board,

It is with great delight that I write this letter to support the feasibility and benefits of staging Jujubes, a play written by Bryn Symonds.

This is a play which can be staged with the sets as indicated by the author or could be played out on a small scene-stage with a minimum set of 3 chairs and two lights (blue and white). While the set accoutrements can be pared back, what cannot be diminished or compromised is the quality of the talent that is asked of each actor who plays a character in this play. This is a play that demands of the actors an intensity and a depth in being the character they take on. The presence they project on the set is essential for this play to communicate its intent. This is a play that needs the right actors for the words to take on the meanings they were intended to carry. This is a play made for actors who want to explore their range of inner-ability and to discover, perhaps, their lack of ability.

Why so much emphasis is placed on the talent or quality of the actors is because at first reading this play appears to say nothing at all. And yet, in such a subtle way it says everything about how, perhaps, most of us go on communicating to each other – the emptiness with which we use words and how this emptiness carries into our inner-selves and our total world.

The play brings up, in the course of the conversations between these four men, ideas on sexual choice – lesbians, gay or straight – likes and dislikes on love-making techniques, glimpses of art theories, culture, work, life-style aspirations, relationships quandaries, attitudes of personal hygiene, hints of paranoia vis-à-vis transmittable disease – HepC or SARS – and questions on how are we to behave in another person’s space – etiquette or rules of society.

Yet, with all of these thought provoking, entertaining ideas being thrown out, none is brought down to a deep, personal level but rather these are just words (left dangling, for the most part, in the air) that signal ideas of potential depth, but that, in the end, never get explored. These four guys never connect on a deeper plane but stay on the surface. They live out the fear that if I reveal myself, I might get rejected, laughed at or taunted. Their narcissism is not egoism but fear or pain, of hurt, of loneliness, of self-loathing.

The initial and closing monologues frame the whole play in that they illuminate or focus on the rejection or isolation and risks that one who has an identifiable difference to a larger or more powerful segment of society may encounter and have to endure. The play unfolds the process of how the rejected group or members of this identifiable group internalize this behaviour and then how those members themselves visit these same attitudes of indignity upon each other and the means by which they humiliate and reject each other – the Stockholm syndrome in reverse.

The small cast, low-tech and minimum set requirements make this play very feasible to stage. The chilled-mannered interactions of the actors and modern-day themes make this play very topical in today’s world. The question left is: do we have the courage to bring this play to fruition and endure all the resulting comments, barbs and judgments that will come as a result of the unease that will be spawned in our own inner, self-reflective dialogues and those we pretend to undertake with our so-called friends.

All due respect
I remain, yours truly

Peter Rochon
110 McGill #402
Montreal, Qc
H2Y 2E5

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