Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2016 is about more than groundbreaking academic panels and innovative keynote speakers; it’s also about showcasing cultural events organized by the University of Calgary School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). The first of these performances is an excerpt of the play The Container by Clare Bayley, directed and designed by University of Calgary MFA graduate students Azri Ali and Michael Sinnott.
Mr. Sinnott’s stage design features a wood and plexiglass replica of a standard shipping container wherein three female refugees, desperate to reach safety in Britain, must contend with an antagonistic agent working to smuggle them across the border—for a price. Placed on either side of the container, in a format that Mr. Sinnott describes as a “parliamentary stage” (political implication definitely intended), the audience is forced to contend not only with the emotionally charged performance of the actors, but also their fellow spectators’ reactions and their own reflections in the plexiglass surface. The set, lit sparingly from within by lamps and flashlights carried by the cast members and dressed with cardboard boxes, packing skids, coarse blankets, and tattered clothing, evokes a sense of danger, claustrophobia, and desperation.
With the Syrian refugee crisis stirring resentment and xenophobia throughout the Western world, The Container resonates more than ever, offering a glimpse into a world most of us are fortunate enough to have never glimpsed before. Congress attendees can catch the second performance of The Container followed by a Q&A session with Mr. Ali and Mr. Sinnott on Sunday, 29 May at 11 am in the Reeve Theatre. See the event listing here or page 8 of your Congress Guide.