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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Q&A: Awkward Conversations is an unconventional love story

In its latest offering, Vancouver’s Stages Theatre Co presents Rob Hayes’ provocatively titled Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked. 

Defying easy description, it is probably best summed up from the company’s own publicity materials:

One-night stands are awkward. One-night stands with animals are more awkward. And when you’re as desperate to please as Bobby, things get awkward as f*ck. He’s just a guy with too much love to give, and a burning desire to give it to consensual adult mammals. Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked, is a dark comedy that may shock, but underneath the title is one character’s unconventional journey through the constant trial and error of love.

In this Q&A with director Cory Haas we find out more about the play and the company’s decision to produce it in Vancouver.

Q[/dropcap] What was it about Awkward Conversations that attracted you to doing it as your second production?

I am always looking for new scripts and am constantly reading them, searching for something that will fit the type of show I like to direct and that we like to present. This one particular play I absolutely judged by its cover. I was in a Foyles bookshop in London and saw this piece on a ‘staff recommendation shelf’. The title drew me in and I bought the script. After reading it, I was lucky enough to discover that the show was funny, dark, poignant and out of the comfort zone. All of that could make for an entertaining night of theatre, exactly what we strive to do at Stages.

Q[/dropcap] It’s a pretty provocative title – do you see that as a barrier or a draw in attracting an audience?

I thought about this a lot before deciding to produce it. The sense of humour of this play is more European than North American but I refuse to think that audience members in Vancouver aren’t open to this type of humour. Sure, the title will act as a barrier to some but mostly, I feel, talking to friends and colleagues, is that people are intrigued and that’s great! If it’s any comfort to those people on the fence, there’s so much more than what the title implies and no animals were harmed in the process.

Q[/dropcap] The content is just as controversial. How do you hope audiences will react – what do you want them to take away from seeing the show?

I hope that audiences will be entertained, taken out of their comfort zone and that the story and themes will stay with them. On a basic level, our character, Bobby, wants to love and be loved. This is a feeling we battle with our whole lives. It’s something we relate too easily. I don’t want to say too much about what happens and hope Vancouverites come check it out to see for themselves.

Awkward Conversations director Cory Haas says the play's sense of humour is more European than North American but refuses to think that audience members in Vancouver aren’t open to this type of humour.
Awkward Conversations director Cory Haas says the play’s sense of humour is more European than North American but refuses to think that audience members in Vancouver aren’t open to this type of humour.

Q[/dropcap] What was it about actor Chris Lam that you knew would be able to carry off this one-person monologue?

I have worked with Chris several times before, on various projects. I’ve seen him play larger than life characters, play himself and wanted someone to explore the very human side of Bobby. Chris brings a certain mystery to everything that he does and is always ready to jump in to new depths. It’s a definite challenge for both of us, Chris has got to carry a show himself but it is my job to give him the tools to do that. We trust each other and that was a big part of the decision.

Q[/dropcap] Did it take any convincing to get Chris to play the role?

Surprisingly no. All I had to do is tell him the title and he was in. We’ve done way weirder stuff when we were in school together, He did tell me in rehearsal yesterday that he had had seconds thoughts, not knowing what he would be doing on stage. I think I’ve reassured him.

Q[/dropcap] Playwright Rob Hayes has said he has “lost quite a few friends over this play” – do you worry about that possibility with this production? 

That’s a little scary… who knows? Maybe. I hope not. Oh god. What am I doing? Should we stop? Let’s cancel. I am going to call Chris now!

Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked plays Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) from May 10-14. Tickets are available online at  Brown Paper Tickets.

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