Statu Quo resists stereotypes of adolescent angst

A Vancouver play that earned four nominations for prestigious Jessie Richardson awards (Jessies), and won the category of best script by an emerging playwright, will take to the Old Fire Hall stage next week.

Statu Quo, a French-language youth play by Gilles Poulin-Denis, travelled extensively in Canada before heading to Whitehorse.

It is a work that consciously and cautiously avoids the stereotypes that come to mind with the term “youth play”, according to the author.

“I didn’t want to write a themed play for teenagers with a moral at the end that tells youth not to do drugs, and to have protected sex,” Poulin-Denis says.

When he was commissioned to write the piece, he decided to approach it the way he’d work on any other play, but dove back in the unique and somewhat confusing world of teenagehood in order to discover the story and its characters.

The starting point for the script was a picture the Vancouver playwright found of two teenage girls leaning against a wall.

“When I saw that picture, I immediately knew they were the characters of my play. I liked the simplicity of it, and it reminded me a lot of my own teenage years when I used to spend so much time just hanging out.”

Statu Quo tells the story of the main character, Sarah, and her best friend, who are about to finish high school in a rather “beige”town. Discouraged with the society she lives in, Sarah is looking for direction on what to do next.

Poulin decided to step away from the stereotypical teenage angst in favour of “exploring the state of teenagehood, bringing it to the stage, and making it real,” he says.

“Sarah’s not going through an existential crisis, she’s just not quite happy.”

When Simon, the son of a military family, rolls into town, it challenges Sarah’s pre-concieved ideas of her own identity and relationship to the place she lives in.

Director Craig Holzschuh opted for a very simple set and staging of Statu Quo to leave space for the text to breathe

“It’s a very musical and rhythmic text. It’s filled with images and metaphors that interconnect,” explains Holzschuh, who is also artistic director of Théâtre La Seizième.

As a director, he focused on orchestrating the minimal set and using the video element of the show to serve this story best. He also went for simplicity because he knew the play would have a life outside of Vancouver.

The company doesn’t usually tour its youth shows.

“As a theatre, we write and produce youth plays for our local francophone audiences. But as soon as we started working on Statu Quo, we knew that it was a play that should tour,” Holzschuh says.

“It’s a universal story about teenagehood and rediscovering the place you live in. Youth and adults across the country really recognized themselves in the story, whether they live in big cities or smaller towns.”

For this reason, they also decided to add English surtitles to the play to make it as accessible as possible to Canadian youth.

Statu Quo plays Wednesday, May 7, at the Old Fire Hall. Curtain time is 7 :30 p.m.

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