Seventeen-year-old Raine hides in the dark alleys of Toronto gripped with fear and guilt after witnessing her best friend’s rape and murder. The same thoughts cycling through her head, “I’m sorry, I just watched you being ripped apart. How could I do that? Just freeze?” In the shadows she attracts the attention of a clan of Dark Faeries eager to feast on her tainted soul. Her only hope is to befriend a rogue Pixie and plead her case to the four ruling Feys; the only ones that can either protect or condemn her.
Aracely Reyes, our second participant of the Director’s Lab program, facilitated by Clare Preuss, sits down with Advisory Board Member Sukaina Ibraheem to share details about her creation process, growth and ambitions for her play Faerie Dust, mentored by Jiv Parasram.
Sukaina What inspired you to direct Faerie Dust?
Aracely I wrote Faerie Dust five years ago, and I have been trying to get it produced ever since. Directing it at one point just made the most sense; No one knows it better than I do and I also felt no one could fight for it as hard as I can. Over the years, I have been lucky to slowly assemble a team that are also ready, and willing to fight to see it make it onto the stage, and now we’re here.
My inspiration to direct it, was the same as I had for writing it. I love Faerie Urban lore; This idea that the magical world exists in our real world, but only “chosen, special” people are able to see it and co-exist with it. Add on top of that, fantasy as a metaphor for some dark topics, and in the case of Faerie Dust, it is a metaphor to help us understand the serious topics of rape, victim blaming and shaming, and the journey to self-forgiveness.
Sukaina What brought your company together?
Aracely My stage managers, Zee and Raquel went to university with me, and we’ve known each other for many years. Both were with me when I directed “Hagoromo” in my third year with the Paprika Festival in 2008. Zee was my Costume designer, and Raquel was my Stage manager. They are official members of my company: “Cely Productions”.
Tijana, the lead in Faerie Dust was a participant in the Paprika Festival with me prior to that, as well as during my last year in 2008. We continued to work together as members of bcurrent’s “rAiz’n ensemble” from 2011 to 2014. When we found each other in Paprika this year, she asked if I needed actors, and so of course we had to work together again.
Troy, Harsharan, and Janice are new to me and the group. Troy and Harsharan are also participants in the Paprika Festival, and were brought on when I asked the Festival for volunteer actors. Janice and I connected through Troy when I searched for a female of Oriental-Asian descent to play the Japanese Empress Kitsune. All the members of my team have been absolutely incredible. They have offered me both challenges and triumphs and so far I am very proud of the work we’ve done.
Sukaina How would you describe your show in three words?
Aracely Fantastical, uncompromising, heartfelt.
Sukaina How did your rehearsal process begin?
Aracely I wanted to introduce my team to my style, the gothic appearance I always insist upon in my work. It’s a huge aspect of what make the piece mine. So, I brought the team together one afternoon at Dundas Square, and we did an actor Q&A exercise. After that we went to my favourite makeup shop: Inglot. I had all the members choose one piece of makeup that they felt was essential to their character, and I purchased that make up. They will wear it during the show and they get to keep it as a memento once everything is over. Actual rehearsals began shortly after that.
Sukaina What is your most memorable rehearsal moment so far?
Aracely The most memorable rehearsal for me was the rehearsal in which my mentor Clare was present. We constructed one of the most complex movement sequences, and it was nerve-wracking for me and for my cast. The work we accomplished was fantastic, and it was really great to have Clare to guide and encourage me.
Sukaina What has been a challenge of working on this show?
Aracely All of my actors are amazing, but they are also very different and have different needs in terms of support from me in order to do the work. I have to co-ordinate rehearsals so that I am giving everyone the attention they need, while also giving the group as a whole direction and support. I have to practice being patient with each member, listen carefully to their needs, remember their needs, and apologize if I forget. It’s been very good for me as well to learn different methods and ways to bring out the best performances from my actors.
Sukaina Why does Toronto need Faerie Dust?
Aracely Toronto needs Faerie Dust because the rape epidemic is a world-wide, international crisis and Toronto is not outside of that. It is one of the few works of art that is willing to tell the story of the witness, a victim whose voice is never heard, often never given the opportunity to be heard because the witness doesn’t exist, or does not exist as a victim themselves. But they are, and they have a story. Like in the case of Raine that needs to be acknowledged. Toronto needs Faerie Dust because stories of rape and the survival of rape affects everyone, not just the victim and the perpetrator(s).
Sukaina Who should see Faerie Dust?
Aracely My target audience is everyone. Men, young and old, should see this play to understand what women are going through; both those being attacked, and those watching or hearing about the attacks. Boys should watch it so that they can begin to understand where these feelings of grief come from, and be part of stopping it.
Women, young and old, should see Faerie Dust to know that they are not alone, that they should understand and support each other, as well as the many ways that they can be injured, and how they go about grieving and healing.
Children can see this play because the rape is never actually shown, but they will see an attack, and a friend mourning the loss of their friend, who feels shame in not being able to help. They will understand that there are many forms of causing and feeling pain, and the healing processes which are necessary.
The story that Faerie Dust tells, is one that everyone needs to hear; difficult topics that cause so much pain cannot be ignored, or hidden away. We need to talk about the things that hurt and scared us and be comfortable in doing so. Only then can we begin to heal and find solutions.
Sukaina How has Paprika Festival supported your directing and development of your play?
Aracely Paprika Festival gave me the first, and only, opportunity in five years to bring Faerie Dust to the stage. They gave me a space, time slots, and an audience. I will finally see how audiences will receive the play, and see the product of my direction and writing. They gave me a mini-mentorship session with jack-of-all-trades director: Natasha Boomer.
The Festival connected me with two amazing mentors: Clare Preuss and Jivesh Parasram, who have both been incredible resources. Jiv allowed me to intern at Theatre Passe Muraille with three other directors: Evalyn Parry, Brandy Leary, Christine Brubaker and writer/actor Severn Thompson. I learn from them by sitting-in during their rehearsals and performances. Clare helped me learn to direct my own work, giving me assignments, and workshop sessions with actors.
Most importantly, they have given me their trust, and the freedom to choose Faerie Dust as a piece to be in the festival that is important, appropriate, and entertaining.
Catch the presentation of Faerie Dust at the 15th annual Paprika Festival in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts.
Aki Studio, Daniels Spectrum Building, 585 Dundas St E
Stay tuned for the next instalment of the Advisory Board’s Interview Series!