Acclaimed local playwright wraps successful tour
INTENSITY – Actors Evelyn Chew and Carl Kennedy from local playwright Andrew Kooman’s production of She Has A Name rehearse a scene from the play, which deals with the horrors of human trafficking.
It’s been quite the milestone year for local playwright/author Andrew Kooman. He has enjoyed tremendous success with his play about the battle against human trafficking called She Has A Name which has been featured across Canada over the past several months. The production has another run in Red Deer next month at the Scott Block, where it was first presented back in March of 2011. Burnt Thicket Theatre, in partnership with Raise Their Voice Against Injustice opened the play earlier that month in Calgary’s Epcor Centre as well. The play runs Oct. 2-6, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. “Personally, it’s really special to bring it back to my hometown,” he said. “People in Red Deer and Central Alberta have been so supportive of the show. I’m so thankful for all the support, so to able to finish it here feels right.” A talk back panel is set for Oct. 6 following the matinee show at about 3:45 p.m. Confirmed panelists include Rachel Hansen, India Field Director, Mission of Mercy Canada; Norma, a survivor and board member of CEASE and Brian McConaghy, founding director of Ratanak International. She Has A Name, directed by Stephen Waldschmidt, provides insight into human trafficking in South East Asia. The story is based on an incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was abandoned. About 50 people lost their lives. That tragedy was a kind of a trigger for the plot which is the story of Jason, a Canadian lawyer who is fighting to build a legal case against a human trafficking ring in Thailand. His investigation focuses on ‘Number 18’, a prostitute working in a Bangkok brothel whose testimony could make or break the case. Can he win the trust of 18 and convince her to risk her life to testify for the sake of justice? Kooman, who works at Red Deer College as a public relations consultant, has long been passionate about social issues such as the impact of war, poverty, and the AIDS pandemic, to name a few. He first began work on She Has A Name in 2008. Staging it and taking the production on the road has been an enormous undertaking, but he’s grateful for the opportunities to share the work and for the conversations it has stimulated. “All along the way it’s been a faith journey because it’s hard to produce theatre. So really, it’s a ‘pinch me’ sort of feeling that it has happened, and that there is interest beyond this tour. That’s exciting, too.” Performances were also held in Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, London, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton and Kelowna. “It’s a huge accomplishment for us to have independently produced this play that has touched people across the country.” He said the actors’ performances are also incredibly moving and it’s not unusual for the cast to receive a standing ovation after the shows. “At the end of a show, a lot of the time, people don’t know what to do. They want to clap but don’t want to. People say they are deeply affected by it – they are emotional. They’re angry, they’re filled with both hope and despair. It’s a drama of deep hope and despair for people. It’s a testament to the director and the actors that very often, there’s a spontaneous and enthusiastic response from the audience once they know that they can clap when it’s over. I’d say the best part is that deep, personal response from people.’ Kooman travels internationally to write and partners with non-profit organizations to teach on writing, creativity and identity. He has a gift for showing the realities many in the world face while pointing readers to practical ways they can help make a difference. In early 2011, a book was released featuring stories by Kooman chronicling the plight of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. He wrote 26 pieces for Disappointed by Hope: 30 Days of Prayer. Although the stories are fictionalized for confidentiality reasons, they are based on actual accounts, case studies and interviews of refugees. He is heading back to Malaysia at the end of the year to work on a second edition. And even though he’s had his hands full with She Has A Name and his RDC job, he’s written two more plays dealing with social justice issues. The first, Delft Blue, is about the Nazi occupation of Holland during the Second World War and the other, entitled We Are The Body, is about a Romanian woman in the 1950s in a Soviet prison camp. It’s inspired by the story of Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned for his faith during that regime. “The three characters (in the play) communicate through Morse code in their solitary confinement. It explores the limits of faith and the human body and the circumstances of a political prisoner in a real-life situation.” There’s also talk of a film version to She Has A Name at some point, so the future is indeed bright – and busy. Meanwhile, he’s excited about presenting She Has A Name to local audiences. Even if folks caught it last time, there are a few powerful new touches this time around. “It’s exciting and for us it’s a celebration for the whole tour to be in Red Deer again.” For tickets, check out www.shehasaname.net/buy-tickets. Visit www.andrewkooman.com. firstname.lastname@example.org