Q&A: Abyss

Performer Gordon Rand on his role in the English language premiere of Maria Milisavljevic's award-winning thriller

Presented by Tarragon Theatre
Written by Maria Milisavljevic
Directed by Richard Rose

Maria Milisavljevic's Abyss, a play about the search for a missing young woman, premiered as Brandung at the Deutsches Theater Berlin and won the prestigious 2013 Kleist Promotional Award for Young Dramatists. This season, Tarragon Theatre is presenting the English language premiere directed by Richard Rose, and starring Cara Pifko, Gord Rand and Sarah Sherman.

Here, we chat with Rand about his experience working on the show.

Theatromania: How would you describe Maria Milisavljevic’s Abyss in a few sentences?

GR: Abyss is a tour through the seamy side of Europe. Your guide is a confused middle class girl who has found herself in horrific circumstances. When her friend goes missing she must figure out where the truth lies, and to whom she is loyal.

Theatromania: Tell us about your character. What motivates him?

GR: Vlado was traumatized by the Balkan Wars. He is barely hanging on after witnessing his mother’s brutal murder. He lives in Germany with two girls—having made a decision long ago to never say no to love. When one goes missing, he is determined not to lose another loved one like he lost his mother.

Theatromania: How did you prepare for this role?

GR: I have an old, best friend who is a veteran of the Canadian Infantry. He is a PTSD advocate and is heavily scarred by his experiences both in the army and when he left it. We are making a film together about his experiences and what he’s learned. He lives in Uruguay so when I got a bit of money to make the film, I combined the film work with the actor research work and had a very eye-opening journey to South America where I got to know my old friend again.

Theatromania: What are some of the challenges involved in staging this play?

GR: Because it all takes place through the perspective of the lead girl it’s hard to stage it in any kind of naturalistic way, with a set and conventional acting etc. The action leaps in and out of her imagination, flashes back to various incidents, and moves quickly across space and time. We have been working hard to evoke that journey for the audience: to allow their imaginations to fly along with ours. We are always connected physically—and we find creative ways to express what’s happening in the story.

Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience?

GR: At the risk of overgeneralizing: I’ve learned that PTSD is an alienating term, and that everyone who has experienced trauma or violence sees the world with a hard won wisdom. They have difficulty with what they know about how the world works, and they often find themselves ostracized by the general population who are scared of them. I have found there is not much to be scared of with most of these guys—they’re for the most part very peaceful. And if you work to understand what they’ve been through, you will be enlightened in amazing ways about human nature and—especially with soldiers—you might even help them to find peace in themselves. Which nobody deserves more than them.

Abyss runs until March 15 in the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. Visit tarragontheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2015-02-03 - Sun, 2015-03-15


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