2012 Toronto Fringe Festival: Q&A With Mahmoud's Tara Grammy and Tom Arthur Davis

Tara Grammy and Tom Arthur Davis discuss Pandemic Theatre's latest production of Mahmoud at the Toronto Fringe Festival

Tara Grammy in Mahmoud.

How does one woman play an Iranian engineer-cum-taxi driver, a gay Spaniard and a young Iranian-Canadian girl all at the same time? Here, we ask Iranian-born playwright and actress Tara Grammy (White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, SummerWorks/Necessary Angel/Volcano Theatre) and co-writer/director Tom Arthur Davis a few questions about Pandemic Theatre’s latest production of Mahmoud at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival.

Theatromania: Tell us about Mahmoud. What inspired this show?

TG & TD: The character of Mahmoud was inspired by the painting “The Dance of the Red Skirts” by Paul Klee and by a colourful Iranian-Canadian cab driver who drove Tara home one day. The character was then introduced to the Toronto stage in February 2009 at the University of Toronto as a 10-minute piece, under the guidance of Leah Cherniak. The following summer came the backlash over Iran’s rigged presidential elections. After this, we knew that the piece needed to be explored further.

Theatromania: Has the production changed much since it was staged at the Tarragon Theatre Backspace in 2011?

TG & TD: In many ways it is different, and in many ways it is the same. We’ve added a couple  of scenes to help flesh out some of the characters, and we’ve changed others to help clarify the plotlines. We brought on an artist who is new to the whole process, the multi-talented Omar Hady, who has come in with some great new staging ideas that have really helped to both re-invigorate the piece, while also keeping the same kinetic energy from the last production. Soheil Parsa has also been very helpful (as always) in clarifying character intentions.

Theatromania: As a performer/director, how do you approach a one-woman show featuring three very different characters?

TG & TD: It can be tricky, especially in the scenes where the characters have conversations. But in the process, you really need to treat the three characters as you would if three different actors were playing them. They each have their own story to tell, they each have their highs and lows, and they each, at the end of it all, need to resonate with the audience. However, there are little tricks to help guide the audience as to who is speaking at any given time: distinct characters ticks, mannerisms, and bodies are essential.

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from the play?

TG & TD: With this show, we hope to give a voice to highly educated immigrants (like Mahmoud) who find themselves at a disadvantage because of a flawed system. It addresses the oppression of the Iranian homosexual community, and the hardships of growing up as a first generation immigrant. We hope to help break some of the stigmas floating around about Iranians and share with you a part of Iranian culture inside and outside of Iran.

In the media, the only things people hear about Iranians have to do with either Ahmadinejad or the recent reality TV show, Shahs of Sunset. Fanatical Islam or insane materialism. There is far more to the Persian community than that. But, ultimately, this show is not just for Iranians. It is for everyone who has ever faced racism and oppression; all immigrants and those who live alongside them.

Theatromania: What excites you most about this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival?

TG & TD: Our company has never done a Fringe show before, so a lot of things. There seems to be such a great sense of community with this festival. Everyone supports each other’s shows and then get drunk together in the beer tent. What’s not to be excited about?! Also, there are a few shows that we’re pumped to see, including Zanne Arte’s Funeral For Clowns. It’s a great company that guarantees a great show.

Theatromania: What’s next for Pandemic Theatre?

Well, actually, Mahmoud again. We have been accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival. So once the Toronto Fringe ends, we have to start packing and getting ready for New York. Aside from that, we are still planning our next season, so stay tuned!

Mahmoud runs from July 4 to July 14 at the Tarragon Extra space. Visit fringetoronto.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Times:

July 04 08:45 PM
July 07 01:45 PM
July 08 01:15 PM
July 10 03:30 PM
July 11 11:00 PM
July 13 12:00 PM
July 14 08:45 PM

Show Dates: 
Mon, 2012-07-02 - Sat, 2012-07-14


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.