Just because playwright C.E. Gatchalian calls his latest work Falling In Time his most hopeful, doesn’t mean it is any less intense than his previous works.
Inspired by a conversation Gatchalian had with a Korean student during his stint as an ESL teacher in 2004, Falling In Time’s main story line deals with that country’s mandatory military service and the sexual abuse endured by that student.
As a conversation tutor, Gatchalian says that while he and his students talked about a lot of different subjects, one that kept coming up over and over again among his students centered on the Korean military service.
“A number of the students had just finished military service and all of them pretty much told me how horrific an experience it was,” he said. “It was unpleasant and they resented that it had robbed them of two years of their youth.”
One particular story that resonated with Gatchalian was the student who opened up to him for the first time about being sexually abused while in the military.
“It was so taboo in Korea that he couldn’t tell his family and friends and it was only here in Vancouver that he could be free enough to be open about it,” said Gatchalian. “That story stuck with me enough that it made me want to write a play about. From there other story lines began to emerge – the Korean War, repression, cross-cultural, masculinity, femininity. Vancouver also became a character as well, taking a very prominent role as a meeting place between east and west.”
It will probably come as no surprise that Falling In Time sees its world premiere courtesy of Vancouver’s queer theatre company Screaming Weenie Productions. What may be surprising though is it is being produced in association with the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.
“As playwright in residence at the Playhouse I already had a relationship with the Playhouse, so when Screaming Weenie decided to produce this play we approached the Playhouse and they were very open to the idea and it has definitely given the show some mainstream credibility,” explained Gatchalian.
Directing the show is Screaming Weenie’s Artistic Director Seán Cummings and is the third play the duo has worked on together. The process for he and Gatchalian has been quite intense as they work closelyk together to bring the show to the Performance Works stage.
“The entire process is managed chaos,” laughed Cummings. “The most challenging aspect of my job is to help guide the cast and crew to find the answers that come up. I then have to ask myself, when do I turn to the playwright, what is his answer to question and when do we need to figure to out on our own?”
“Once it is out of me it belongs to the world,” said Gatchalian. “Other people’s interpretations are just as valuable and I really appreciate the insight the actors, Seán, and others involved bring to the play. It is truly a collaborative process.”
As for what they hope audiences will take with them as they leave the theatre the pair finds themselves almost agreeing.
“I want an audience to come out with a realization of the importance of letting go,” said Gatchalian.
“Letting the past go,” corrected Cummings.
But one thing they do agree on is that Falling In Time not only has an intensity about it, it is also quite funny.
Falling In Time
5 – 12 November 2011
Performance Works, Granville Island
Steve is an outrageous, embittered Korean War vet. Jamie is a cold, unfeeling ESL teacher. Chang Hyun is a Korean ESL student brimming with anti-Western sentiment. Eun Ha is a Korean woman who, against all odds, finds the will to survive. Across two continents and over a span of more than forty years, the lives of these four characters miraculously intertwine. A bold, epic exploration of war, sexuality, forgiveness and love, Falling in Time asks the question, why do men fear the feminine? And how do we let go?