Coming of Age in a DREAM

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Handerek’s set is inspired by artifacts from his personal life, including a knife his friend used to attempt suicide with. /image: Landon Wallister

Handerek’s set is inspired by artifacts from his personal life, including a knife his friend used to attempt suicide with. /image: Landon Wallister

Handerek puts on a realistic, spellbinding show

Article: John Loeppky – Contributor

Identity, memory, pain, recollection, hope, and hilarity were all present on stage in the Shu Box last week.

Small Boy DREAMS, a developmental production written and directed by our own Kelly Handerek, and performed by University of Regina student Kent Evans, ran from Sep 11-14, 2013.

The one act, one actor performance centers around a coming of age story for a man on the prairies. To simplify this play to a story about a gay man is to deny its complexity. The themes presented, as the small boy weaves between memories of youth, loss, love, struggle, death and life, are universal.

The first image is a striking one. The set is an announcement of the feelings you are about to experience. I attended the preview performance on Wednesday and heard the audience marvel at the atmosphere created before the actor even walked on stage. Here is Mr. Handerek himself speaking about the set:  “It is about floating dreams, it’s about things that are upside down in your past, and it’s about what you remember. That is really my mother’s jewelry box. That is the real knife that my friend tried to kill himself with, the red scarf that comes out really is George’s scarf. So there are some absolute, personal, true, real props.”

The physical environment presented to the eye matches the deeply personal narrative presented by the play. With items placed around the stage in meaningful ways, there is an immediate sense of memory and an imagined world of the self.

As the play moves forward, the changes that the main character undergoes are as varied as they are quick. From remembering how he, as a teenager, saved his friend from suicide, to his feelings after both his mother and father die. Interspersed among these heavy moments are an equal amount of joyful spurts. Tales of university and falling in love, stories about first performances and first jobs. We see the transformation, the parts making up the whole. This play is actively seeking to relate to you and it does so rather well. The acting is absolutely spellbinding and Evans is able to capture the essence of the play. To capture the personal narrative of a man this well is quite a dramatic feat, one that he should be commended for.

The performance is looking at a run in England in the near future, a reward well deserved. This continued success, in my opinion, is due to its lack of forcefulness. Small Boy DREAMS does not say, “here, think this or else.” The play allows you to come to your own conclusions.

I asked Mr. Handerek what he hoped an audience member would take away and his answer says it better than any reviewer could hope to.

“That we are no different, homosexuals, than heterosexuals, that we have more similarities as people than we have differences, that forgiveness is needed for all of us, that we all are unique and have special gifts, that we all have uncertainties as children and that we can get through what, at times, is an uncertain minefield of growing up.”

An origin story at its finest and one which is destined for continued success, Small Boy DREAMS shines a light on the personal experiences of one man while highlighting similarities for every audience member. A thought-provoking production if ever there was one.

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