The Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies (CDTPS) will host its annual Mainstage Show from March 9 to 12 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. Students enrolled in the DRM403 course will be performing don’t cry when constellations beg to burn written by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) and directed by Eva Barrie.
The story explores a world where birds hold more rights than books. It follows two men pitching a better way of living to a Bird Man, as well as a group of students who aim to censor dangerous thoughts in books.
Barrie describes Ho as a playwright capable of capturing beauty and magic in text. For this reason, she fell in love with the story’s irreverence, playfulness, and heart.
“don’t cry when constellations beg to burn is an offer to the importance of imagination, critical thought, and the power of youth,” said Barrie. “This play is very much about democracy, and I hope that true to democracy, people leave the audience carrying multiple and at times opposing thoughts on the world of the play.”
Compared to other works, student actor Abi Akinlade describes it as, “The type of play that you continue to think about long after the final curtain falls.”
“This play is so grandiose and whimsical and yet also so personal,” said student actor Christina Gross.
Putting the play together also came with its challenges. “It requires a lot of collaboration and rigour,” explained Barrie. “It was a pleasure to witness the actors roll with all the changes Jeff made in the room, based on what we were learning.”
For this play, each student took on multiple roles. While this was a demanding task, the actors found it worthwhile.
“It has been challenging working to find different physical qualities between the array of characters,” said Gross. “But it’s been a rewarding challenge!”
For Akindale, working on this play presented her with a challenge she has faced throughout her entire acting journey. She explained, “I am very often cast as characters who are rambunctious/loud/take up a lot of physical and vocal space, and I am not necessarily used to being ‘allowed’ to take up that sort of space in my day-to-day life, so I find myself holding back every now and then when I perform.”
Akindale plans to overcome this by leaning into the joy she experiences when she allows herself to let loose and be as big as she wants.
Both student actors expressed that working with their classmates, collaborating with Ho, and seeing Barrie’s directorial vision come to life has positively shaped their experiences in working on this play.
Akinlade hopes that people will learn about literature and what it has to offer society. “I think it’s imperative that we acknowledge not only how much can be gleaned from books,” said Akinlade. “But also, what a privilege it is to have consistent and reliable access to literature.”
Gross hopes that the audience laughs, connects with the characters on stage, and ultimately gains a deeper appreciation for the written word and imagination. To find out more about the performance and reserve tickets, visit uoft.me/dontcry.