Hospital at Edmonton Fringe Festival

Hospital
Walterdale Playhouse (10322 – 83 avenue) August 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24
More information: smokeandashtheatre.weebly.com


An interview with Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman 

Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman and Robin Toller in Hospital. Photo credit: Ania Sodziak

Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman and Robin Toller in Hospital. Photo credit: Ania Sodziak

Describe your show in five words.
Doctors (and) Nurses (and) popcorn, oh my!

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
Honestly, that’s a really hard question because this is not a ‘normal’ play. It’s an experience, an offering for anyone who has ever had the joy of being sick and getting treatment – or seeing someone close to them be sick and get treatment. Hospital is a show that follows a patient as they go through the medical system. What they know at the beginning of the show is that they aren’t feeling well and that they were told to go to the hospital. The audience follows their experience but more than that, they follow their thought process. What does this room remind them of? What is this experience like? What was a story that they once heard? When was the last time they were at the Hospital? This is mostly what the audience sees. The patient’s inner thoughts, deepest fears, memories, and their own interpretation of what’s happening in the Hospital.

Hospitals, and medical treatment, are typically a pretty bad experience, yet your show takes a humorous approach to the subject. When or how did you know that this was the right direction to take your show?
Pretty much right away. Both myself and my original co-creator have had a myriad of medical problems in our lives. One day over coffee she started telling me a story about a hospital experience and we both just started laughing. Then I told her a story and we kept laughing. When you are in the middle of the experience it is so absurd all you can do is laugh and find ways to cope. For example, my sister is diabetic and was diagnosed at a very young age. Therefore she and my mother have spent countless hours in hospitals together, so they developed a game called ‘The piggy game’ where my sister pretended to be a pig and the whole game was she’s pretend to break into a woman’s house and poop on a floor. It kept them going through really hard times. Years later my mom’s friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer and my mom would help take him in for chemo because they didn’t own a car. She told him about the piggy game and this little boy played it all through his chemo and it kept him laughing too. To be clear, Hospital is not a comedy – but it has a lot of humour because Diana and I realized that though we had seen many shows about illness we hadn’t seen any that spoke to the absurdity and hilarity of our experiences and we wanted to create something that did. We were worried about it, how would people react, but the first time we presented the show, which was at a workshop, we noticed our audience nodding emphatically at all the different moments that spoke to them personally. That’s when we knew we were on to something. And that feeling was continued because over the years of development audiences have come to us and shared their own insane stories with us and many of them are now in the show. The humour is a way for people to feel less isolated in their experience, and so far, it seems to be working!

Your co-creator Diana has a dance background – how does this art form contribute to the journey Hospital takes it’s audiences on?
One of the reasons Diana and I started working together was to push each other in new creative directions. As a choreographer/dancer she was interested in doing work with stronger narratives and characters and as a writer/actor I am always interested in new forms, I love dance, though I am useless at it, and I wanted to do work that scared me. One of the strengths of dance is getting emotion out of audiences without logic or reason. Especially in the setting of a ‘Hospital’ this element seemed key to play with. Originally the piece was more abstract because of the dance, but about two and a half years ago actor/dancer Robin Toller joined the team. He started off as a facilitator and eventually became a performer in the piece as well but originally his role was to bridge the gap between my world and Diana’s and help bring cohesion to the piece. The finished product, hopefully, encompasses the strengths of both mediums to take the audience on an experience that has a strong story but is also layered emotional truth to it.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
We’re just really excited to share it with Edmonton. When we first started working on the show we never thought it would go anywhere. It was weird and different and we loved it but we figured no one else would. When we started getting accepted into workshops and public showcases we were awed by the audience response and it was only because of that response that we pushed ourselves to keep developing it and make it stronger. When we premiered it last year in Chicago at Collaboraction Theatre’s Sketchbook Festival we realized that we had something more universal than we had originally thought. We hope to take it to many festivals world wide and Edmonton is such an amazing place to start our touring from!

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
So many! First of all everyone at Series 8:08 in Toronto, the first place that took a chance on us, and everyone at Collaboraction in Chicago – specifically Anthony Moseley who has been so generous with his company’s resources and help with getting us here. Obviously Diana Rose who had to stop performing the piece last year. And our amazing stage manager in Edmonton Kate Quinn-Feehan.

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. I’ll be previewing shows up until the Fringe starts. Want your show to appear on After the House Lights? Email jennamarynowski@gmail.com.

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