TWU production shares refugee stories

Emmett Hanly of Abbotsford among those involved in play

Emmett Hanley of Abbotsford is among the cast of the TWU production disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words.

Trinity Western University student Emmett Hanly, an Abbotsford resident and graduate of St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary, has helped create a theatre production based on interviews with refugees to Canada.

The show, called disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words, tells the true stories of people – from Mennonite immigrants who fled Europe after the Second World War to recently arrived Syrian refugees – who shared their experiences with TWU’s theatre artists.

One family, fleeing guerrilla forces in Colombia, concealed themselves among the furniture in a moving truck.

A refugee from Iraq arrived in the Lower Mainland as a teenager, braving the social dynamics of high school with very little English and her head shaven from surgery.

These and other personal experiences, captured word for word in the dialogue, take on even more poignancy with the original music woven through the production.

“I found some of the refugees’ words so moving that they were like poetry,” said Hanly, a second-year theatre major. “As a musician, the only way I could think to respond was to set those words to music. It’s been really meaningful to me, being able to tell these stories through song.”

Hanly is one of a diverse and multi-talented cast. All of the actors sing, play music, and transform themselves into multiple characters over the course of the show.

Part of the genre known as “devised theatre,” the production was collaboratively created on campus. The actors were cast not knowing what the script would be, or what characters they would end up playing.

All of the dialogue is lifted from verbatim testimonies that refugees shared with the artists.

Hanly and his castmates will host an educational event for high school students on Nov. 30. The night includes dinner, admission, and a talkback for $10. To register, email visit@twu.ca.

disPLACE runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 3 at TWU’s School of the Arts, Media + Culture, Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

There is one Saturday matinee on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Book tickets at twu.ca/theatre or call 604-513-2188.