By James Keller
Gail Hanrahan thinks photography is no way to create a history.
"I haven’t been a picture-taker in my life," begins Hanrahan, who directs the play 24 Exposures for Alberta Theatre Project’s annual playRites festival this month. "I think that once it’s on paper and it is this picture, I find it harder to remember."
This theme of rememberance is dominant in the play, showing Feb. 10-March 4 in the Martha Cohen Theatre. Although the play is set during one day–son Richard’s 40th birthday–the dynamic of the family is revealed by uncovering the characters’ pasts and examining the present. This particular day is caught on camera by the family’s youngest son and Hanrahan says this reemphasizes the way we remember.
"[Photos] may be truthful in the moment, but I don’t think they tell the whole story," Hanrahan says, pointing to how these images of a happy family do not indicate the tension between them.
This misrepresentation, however, is not unique to photography.
"One of the things that comes out in the play is that life always seems like it was better at a different time," explains Hanrahan.
An appropriate comment since much of the play revolves around time. Dennis, the father, is an aging retiree in poor health, Richard is leaping past 40 and all of the characters spend their day reminiscing.
"What binds our family of origin together is the past," says Hanrahan, adding that she can see this continuity between the past and present in her own life. "If you have brothers and sisters [and] if you were the leader of your brothers and sisters, then you will be when you’re 50 or 40 or 30."
Elements of death abound throughout the play from talk of a violent murder in a nearby town to the inevitable death of the aging father. However, according to Hanrahan, this should not been seen as entirely negative.
"You don’t know when you’re going to die," says Hanrahan. "If you don’t do those things, if you don’t say those things, if you don’t do them as you’re living your life, you might be caught and have missed it."
Originally written in French by Quebecer Serge Boucher, the play is being performed for the first time in English. Although translated for this production, Hanrahan is confident the original messages and culture of the characters have been preserved.
"It’s definitely set in Quebec so here, when people see it, they should feel… immersed in another world," she explains, comparing the experience to seeing a foreign film. "You recognize all the emotions. Emotions are universal."