RCA Theatre Company

Squawk

Megan Coles: What is your entry point into the social context of the world of the play?

Lois Brown: For me, the on-going epidemic of missing indigenous women – in every aspect – the invisibility, contradiction, and denial – lives evaporating into thin air. Often taking the nod from police that there has been no foul play, our society continues to pretend we can’t smell the stench of a history of injustice, violence, and dishonesty. “Squawk” explores predacious institutional exploitation of indigeneity: as Annie ages out of care, she enters an ever-increasingly lethal situation. Squawk also envelopes us in a kind, gentle first-love between Annie and Isaac. It says lets hope – lets be together.

Megan Coles: What do you hope students and teachers in NL takeaway from the show? 

Lois Brown: I hope they are excited by its liveness. I hope they think about their world. Many of our indigenous students live in a natural world – and that can bring a lot of what makes life joyous – curiosity and peace: strength and identity.  This play offers younger audience members a chance to claim their identity and to bring themselves strength – as indigenous or not. It’s a chance to talk about what they think about themselves and these issues as they become adults. Our young people face a very fraught world, and to be able to discuss that, can bring unity and support.

Cindy Stone: In Squawk, Annie finds herself holding on to someone else’s secret. It’s a burdensome position to which many adolescents can keenly relate. Often, they are left to teeter between confidence and action. It is my hope that both students and teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador are reminded of this delicate struggle, and the consequence of choice. What we choose to disclose significantly impacts ourselves and those around us. I hope the play’s audience is encouraged to weigh violence in any given situation, to trust their gut, and to draw their own conclusions. To me, Squawk is about empowerment in a tumultuous time. It is a coming of age. It inspires a certain grit and fortitude in the reader; these are useful tools to keep sharp and at the ready.

Megan Coles: What aspects of the play are you most excited about interpreting for the stage?

George Robertson: It seems to me that the play often places its central character, Annie, in a sort of liminal position between various pairs of opposing forces or ideas: child/adult, home/not-home, indigenous identity/non-indigenous environment, Isaac/Louis, real-world/game-world, secrets/revelations, and so on, and some of these oppositions are blurred or shift in and out of focus at different points in the play.  Her navigations of all these boundaries will be challenging to interpret and reflect in design.

Melanie Ozon: Examining and bringing a story to life is what I am most excited about. Working with the design team to ensure that the characters and setting tell the story. Creating the look for the actors so that they are real and relatable. Early in the design process we talk it out: would the character do this? What is the person’s motivation? What kinds of things does the person value? How can we represent that? When we are able to successfully design and build the words from a piece of paper into a living breathing beautiful thing for everyone to enjoy, that is my thing that I am most excited about interpreting for the stage.

Colin Furlong: One of the aspects I’m most excited to bring to the stage is the idea of the game world vs. the real world. That’s vague, I know, but at this stage in the process it should be. The juxtaposition of the two worlds in the play is going to be a great challenge to explore in rehearsal, and I hope it’s going to be an eye-opening experience for the audience in performance. I think the Video game analogies that Meg has written are really going to translate well for young audiences and really get them thinking.

Megan Coles: How does real world vs. game world function within the structure of the play? 

Andrea Cooper: The game world is an imaginary parallel universe. Squawk takes place in an urban food court. The video game world is set in an empty parking lot, the woods, and the ocean. Annie runs from the urban world towards ‘home’.  It’s as if Annie fell through a portal. In this predatory game, complete with a points system that aimlessly go up and down –  she runs and hides to survive. She’s trying to find her way back home. And eventually she does on her own terms.

Annie says she wants to ‘build a new game’, and we see that she’s been writing some of her code.  How do you think this play will help audiences write theirs?

Megan Coles: I think feminist and progressive movements across the world have been collectively demanding a new game forever though with added rigour lately. This is a result of numerous factors though I personally feel inter-generational trauma and ecological grief spurned on by ever disparate living conditions have engulfed many of us in urgency. We know women and girls are stolen from our communities while the planet simultaneously burns inferno and melts down. I hope Squawk will empower young people to claim what is rightfully theirs: a future. I am an adult, a member of their community, and I am admitting the current course is not good enough for them. I am urging them to devise a new, better course.

Meg did a lot of research around video games and teenagers while she was writing Squawk. Just wondering if she stumbled across any empowering games geared at women? 

Megan Coles: Gamergate was at the height of vicious during the writing of Squawk and I was very engrossed with the velocity and public nature of death threats heaved at the young women at the centre of the attacks. I had become a rather large fangirl of Feminist Frequency with Anita Sarkeesian. I discovered her while researching Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and it was a really informative phase of play development. Subsequently, I was introduced to the games of Zoe Quinn, specifically Depression Quest, which is a different style of gaming with creative goals that align with my own.

Why did you decide to set so much of the play in a mall food court? 

Megan Coles: Because that is where I see teenagers. Young people who appear to not want to be at home. What public, free spaces do they still have access to where they can interact with limited adult supervision in a relatively warm and safe environment. The mall. It is not my lived experience but it is a common enough adolescent experience. The food court specifically is a very stimulated place with contradicting light and audio, it is for me an incredibly busy overwhelming atmosphere as youth is often busy and overwhelming.

What does it mean to you that your play is going to be performed for young people, not only across the Island, but in rural communities across Labrador, as well?

Megan Coles: I think engaging with young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is the most important and impactful difference I could make for my community as an artist and a former rural, remote, northern community member. You can’t be what you can’t see and so I am go to just go be with them and maybe that will be important for someone. At the very least, we are going to have a very grown up conversation about misogyny and racism, rape culture and consent. But it won’t be all grown up talk all the time because that’s boring. 😉