A NEW PLAY BY SARAH WAISVISZ
What if the question is not where are you from but what are you? As a person of mixed-race, I was intrigued when Toronto Life magazine declared “The End of White Toronto: How a generation of mixed-race kids will transform the city.” The cover story argued that Toronto was becoming more multi-cultural, more mixed-race, and consequently much improved because of this diversity. But what of the deep sense of rootlessness, discomfort, and alienation that many mixed-race individuals suffer from? How can you answer “where are you from” when you don’t know what you are? Monstrous, or, The Miscegenation Advantage is my creative, auto-biographical, and multi-disciplinary response to this complex social phenomenon.
A major concern in the play is the theme of perception, and the disjunction between who we truly are as individuals and how we are perceived by society. Monstrous confronts this universal theme in a very specific way. I grew up feeling terribly self-conscious, weird, and ill-fitting, because nearly every day something would be said that made me feel less than normal, not good enough, not right, no matter where in the world I was. I have heard every possible variation of
- “Where are you from? No, really, where are you really from?”
- “You’re so exotic looking! I’m so jealous.”
- “Why are you always so dark?”
- “You’re not really black. You’re mostly white. Aren’t you?”
Are these kinds of comments motivated by simple curiosity and interest? Are they compliments? Are they racist? Or do the comments reveal a deep and intrinsic discomfort with people who do not fit into neat racial and cultural categories? Why is it important to know who and what I am and where I am from? No matter the motivation, these kinds of relentless questions and observations put the onus on me, like on other mixed-race individuals, to constantly justify and explain our very existence. This constant self-justification is exhausting and demeaning. Monstrous examines my own experiences but also throws up the mirror to the audience, and to my interlocutors …
I began writing the script for Monstrous while I was researching and writing my PhD dissertation about resistance, memory, and the very theme of diasporic identity in women’s literature from the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean. The script of Monstrous is, without a doubt, the “rebellious twin” and “shadow text” to the dissertation. The script is everything that could not be contained by the academic genre and that cried out to be theatricalized and embodied; in many ways, Monstrous is the truth of the project, the guts and entrails of the project. Monstrous is my own act of resistance, my act of witness and testimonial, inspired by the tradition I have been studying, the history of my own family, and my personal experience as a mixed-race person in Canada.
I must have been around 7. I am playing across the street in Kari’s front lawn, near the fire hydrant. A woman I don’t know, a grown up, a friend of a neighbour’s I think, asks me how I enjoyed my time in Florida.
“I’ve never been to Florida,” I say.
“Well, you’ve been on vacation somewhere,” she says.
“No I haven’t.”
“Well, why are you so tanned, then?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Anyway I’m not tanned. It’s only April.”
“Exactly,” she says. “Florida.”
(from The Notebook of Racist Comments, Sarah’s personal archive of observations, featured in Monstrous)
YOUTUBE link to a video of our development process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0ZPPioJbrc&feature=youtu.be (video by Cory Thiber)
YOUTUBE link of our 3-minute TRAILER: (video by Andrew Alexander) https://youtu.be/Oh4kybxj_54