Graceful Rebellions, playing in the SummerWorks Festival, tracks experiences of (and with) queerness in war-torn Afghanistan to Canada through two generations and four characters. We start with an idealistic fourteen year old, probably around sixty years ago, imagining her own future wedding on the eve of her sister’s. She is so good-natured and naïve that it is hard for us, the audience, who know her reality will not be able to meet her fantasy.
The second character is the best friend of the first, a girl who willfully cuts her hair short, garnering disapproval from adults. As the war rages on and her father and brother are killed, she transitions to a he. As a boy, and then a man, he climbs the violent ladder of the drug trade. His values are conflicted but he wins himself a position of power and a beautiful bride, who he will have to trust to keep his secret.
The fourth character is a seventeen year old girl in Canada who I think was named Zinat. She is facing expulsion from school after punching a boy who called her racist names and put the moves on the girl Zinat has a crush on. After moving from the bittersweetness of the first story to the brutality of the second, this is where playwright and performer Shaista Latif gives us some comedic relief. Zinat has all the brash, self-centred vulgarity of a modern teen, but she also has integrity and is very perceptive. She understands the forces affecting her which include, but are not limited to, conflicting cultural expectations, familial role modelling, racism and homophobia.
The final character is Zinat’s mother, in later years when Zinat is an adult and about to be married to her female partner. The mother details her path to acceptance, and also pulls the whole play together, circling around to invoke that first idealistic fourteen year old. It’s cleverly constructed and quite poignant. Shaista Latif knows her characters intimately and devotes herself to them, and she benefits from the deft hand of director and dramaturg Evalyn Parry.
I was also deeply affected by experiences of homophobia in my youth, so I might find this play more touching than most. But even without the personally invested emotional element, I feel like this is a fascinating look into Afghan and Afghan-Canadian culture that will interest most people in the diverse population of Toronto.
Graceful Rebellions plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
Saturday August 9, 4:30pm
Sunday August 10, 2:30pm
Monday August 11, 7:00pm
Wednesday August 13, 7:30pm
Friday August 15, 5:00pm *Talkback After*
Saturday August 16, 9:00pm
All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Photo by Amanda Geensen