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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Breathe Deeply

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday October 15, 06:01 pm
Live Five’s Lungs looks at the many questions around having a child


Runs to Sunday 25

The Refinery

Bringing a new life into the world isn’t a decision to take lightly: Are you even ready to have kids? What kind of air will the little being be breathing when the bundle of joy arrives in the world, given the crumbling state of the environment as we know it? And do you know how much garbage (and, er, poop...) a baby produces?

These and other equally life-jarring questions confront modern couples on a regular basis — and Lungs, the season-opening play of the Live Five theatre year, examines them through dialogue that is tumultuous and charmingly sharp, and ultimately follows the trajectory of a romantic comedy.

This is the fourth play that husband and wife duo Aaron Hursh and Caitlin Vancoughnett have artistically assembled under the moniker Fire in the Hole Productions. (They’re also playing the starring roles of this two-person production.)

Both agree that the backbone of the play is a beautiful story of the journey couples have to make together, told from the perspective of an environmentally conscious, 30-something couple.

“They’re trying to take into consideration the global situation while being considerate and smart, and trying to consolidate those beliefs with the dynamic of having a kid,” says Hursh. “All the while, they’re trying to deepen their relationship with each other.”

The setting for the production, written by playwright Duncan Macmillan, is purposely sparse: Two people on a bare stage, with no set, no props and no miming, according to Vancoughnett.

“There’s no costume-changes, and no using light and sound to indicate where we are or a change of setting,” she says.

The stark openness of the stage is meant to emphasize the the omnipresent and very relatable emotions that are portrayed in this play, according to the couple.

“When you have this big, life-changing discussion with your partner, it’s this all-encompassing thing,” says Vancoughnett. “It’s with you all the time. Whether you’re driving or at home or waiting for a show to start, the conversation continues.”

“There’s no extraneous commas; it’s concise and clear,” adds Hursh. “There are elements of environmentalism and conservationism, but ultimately it’s a love story — one that you’re looking at through the perspective of the global climate.”

The fact that these two actors are a married couple has provided an interesting dynamic for the creative team, which also includes director Brian Cochrane and stage manager Emma Thorpe.

“We were intrigued by the dialogue, because we’re at a similar point in our lives, for sure,” says Vancoughnett. “Brian [Cochrane] also thought we would be able to bring a lot to the characters.”

“It’s great because we’re clearly familiar with one another. It’s easier to read each other’s energy for sure — we’ve got a trust established,” adds Hursh. “In another respect, it’s kind of crazy — we’ll spend six or eight hours together arguing in rehearsal, and we get into pretty dark topics, but then we go home and share nachos.”

The characters in Lungs struggle with the ins and outs of being a modern couple who are monogamous yet unwed, cohabitating, wanting to be socially responsible, and also trying to decide whether to wind up the biological clock or let it keep on ticking.

“There’s a line in the play where the female lead says, ‘I could fly to London and back every day for seven years and leave less of a carbon footprint than having a child does,’” says Vancoughnett. “It equals 10,000 tonnes of C02. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower. It’s a comical line, but it’s true! The couple is presented with many a conundrum.”

Hursh says that tons of questions arise from that premise. “They bring up things like, 'What can we do to counteract the impact of all those diapers in the landfill?', for example. But then do you just not have a kid if that’s a basic desire? And if you do end up having a child, is it a good impetus for you to do something about the world? Will you do less if you don’t have a kid? Or maybe my kid will end up being the solution to the problem. Many facets are explored here.”

Hursh says that he feels that audiences from many walks of life will be able to connect and identify with the overarching themes.

“I think it will be a really familiar story,” he says. “There’s some real honesty, some heartfelt laughs and it’s really beautiful storytelling. I think a week later, people will stop and have a moment where they say, ‘Oh, that’s what that meant.’ It will sit with them.

“I’ve read other articles from other productions of this play, and audience members thanked the artistic crew afterwards, because this play gave them a bit of courage to discuss things they had been avoiding in their own relationships."


A sold-out gala was a fitting celebration of culture and history for the re-naming of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company. The new title is Gordon Tootoosis NÄ«kānÄ«win Theatre. NÄ«kānÄ«win (pronounced knee-gone-knee-win) is a Cree expression for leadership, according to the organization’s newly redesigned website.

The official transition took place on Oct. 2, and the company now honours the work and vision of the late Gordon Tootoosis, legendary Cree-Canadian actor and one of the founding members of the aboriginal-based theatre group.

According to speakers at the event, Tootoosis was instrumental in inspiring fellow aboriginal people to pursue theatrical and performance-based endeavours, and was a key proponent for the youth mentorship program, Circle of Voices.

Irene (his wife of 46 years), his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many more family members, former colleagues and fellow performers were in attendance. They were joined by past and present Circle of Voices members, as well as staff, volunteers and various other guests and community members.

The event, which took place in the ballroom of the Dakota Dunes Casino, was hosted by actor and musician Andrea Menard. The soiree featured musical and theatrical performances, honour drum group songs, video and in-person tributes, a poem by Irene, the announcement of a new scholarship from the Amiskusees Semaganis Worme Family Foundation, and the unveiling of a portrait by Cheryl Buckmaster which will hang in the halls of the newly named company’s building.

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