Her Name Was Mary will be opening on September 8th, as part of the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival. Put on by Indigo Child Productions, and written and directed by Tai Amy Grauman, this show follows two girls, Amy and Mary, as they grow as friends and struggle with eating disorders. I sat down with two actors from the cast: Emily Doreen Wilson who plays Amy, and Bonnie Duff who plays Maya.
Can you please tell us about the concept of the show?
Emily: The whole concept of the show is these two girls, Amy and Mary, who become friends at the age of ten. You see them age between 10 and 15, and you see them develop eating disorders and how they bond through it and ultimately, Mary passes away. Not as a direct result of the eating disorder, basically she looses too much weight, she’s down to 60 pounds, and she gets involved in a car accident, and because she’s dieted so severely, her body can’t get back to normal. She can’t recover, and she ends up dying.
Bonnie: -And this isn’t spoilers, it happens in the first scene.
Emily: Amy and Mary develop eating disorders that are embodied by real people. It’s like the inner demon, like the negative part of you that you don’t want coming out.
I know this show deals a lot with eating disorders, is that the main issue that it explores?
Emily: Sort of, it explores a lot to do with relationships, the relationship between Amy and Mary, and their friendship and love for each other, and how friendships grow and evolve. And the damage they can cause at the same time.
Bonnie: I think a big thing it explores, is the kind of obsessive relationships that teenaged girls have with each other, and with their own personal inner demons. You see them through the ages of 10 to 15, and how much they change, and how much they feed each other’s demons. And how wonderful a support system they have for each other, but also not great sometimes.
Emily: I think the show touches a lot on women’s relationships in a non-sexual way, which is really nice. Like, they’re friends, they’ll talk about everything, but they will also shit talk each other, and support each other, and try to get through the bad times.
Bonnie: I’ve found it interesting to explore how human my character is. How much of it is literally a personification of an eating disorder, and how much of it is an actual human.
Theatre is unique in the way that you can have those voices actually staged with people. Do you think that helps contribute to expressing the ideas that you are exploring?
Bonnie: The medium of theatre, what it really does, is dramatize the moments that might otherwise go by unnoticed. Especially, the moments in your life where something develops. Some kind of problematic habit of thinking that will follow you for your entire life. I think because it is a dramatized personified version, you can really zoom in on those moments, where it’s like, this is square one of this whole disaster.
Emily: I think it’s opened the conversation a lot. I discussed with Tai and Sachi (Nisbet), who plays Mary, about eating disorders. I had a feeling when I was growing up that I really had an eating disorder, and it didn’t really click until we started talking about it openly in rehearsal. Things like, you don’t eat for such a long time that you don’t feel hungry anymore. I went through that for about two years, and I was at the skinniest weight I’d ever been, but I wasn’t even aware of it. I hadn’t even thought about it. I think a lot of girls are like that, that’s what our lives are like.
Bonnie: I think it’s interesting because it pinpoints a lot of moments that everybody has, regardless of whether or not they have an eating disorder. Things that they talk about, in a very frank way, because in the scenes they’re ten and twelve and thirteen, and they don’t really have a filter, have hit really close to home, in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to.
Why do you think this is an important issue to discuss?
Emily: I think it’s both interesting, because I mean, we talk about it like “don’t be bulimic, don’t be anorexic”, but nobody really knows what those habits are, and how girls get into it.
Bonnie: I also think the play is very important in the sense that there are a lot of very romanticized stories about eating disorders, specifically about anorexia, which I think is more dangerous than not telling the story at all. I think it’s important to see the progression of it, and the horror of that. Like, the really gross side of it, and how eating disorders ruin lives. There are a lot of stories that are about eating disorders, that have a beautiful happy ending, or a beautiful thin Hollywood actress.
Some women’s bodies just look a certain way, and that’s how their body looks, they have weight in certain places.
Bonnie: There’s a line that’s something like, “I wish I was as thin as I was when I was thirteen” , and I remember thinking that, I’ve thought that. Or like, I remember being thirteen and I hit puberty probably around eleven, and so by the age of thirteen I looked fairly similar to what I look like now, and I remember being so self conscious, I remember being like “why is everybody so skinny?” and I’m not. So there’s just those little moments that really stick out.
So it sounds like a really heavy script, how are you guys tackling it?
Bonnie: It’s heavy, but there are certainly moments that are not heavy. Like, it is a very heavy show, but there are certainly moments that are funny, especially in that young, teenaged girl way of just being. And also like Amy’s just kind of awkward. They’re very funny, because they’re very real.
Emily: I would view her (Amy) as the more immature one, and she just asks questions, and she’s just like “so what does it mean?” She doesn’t know exactly how sex happens, and she’s relying on her best friend to kind of fill in the details, so she doesn’t have to ask her parents. I think there’s a lot of levity in the script, a lot of jokes, and a lot of fun to be had. It is a serious play, about a serious subject, but life can’t be serious all the time, things happen that are funny. They have a good time, they are clearly friends for a reason. They wouldn’t be friends if they were always sad together.
What’s it like working with such a small cast and crew?
Emily: There’s lots of good energy.
Bonnie: And it’s just the four of us in the cast, which is really exciting. I’ve never worked in such a small cast.
Emily: It’s mostly women. It’s all women and then Seamus, who’s doing lighting and producing, but that’s it. It’s all women in the cast, and crew, and it’s so nice.
Bonnie: And it’s interesting to explore a very intimate environment. In the rehearsal there’s 5 of us in the room tops, and that’s very cool.
Emily: It’s been a good experience. I like working with a cast of women, because women don’t have enough opportunities in theatre. We don’t need another cisgendered white male leading a show. We have enough of those right now, let’s let other voices speak. So I’m really excited about that. Let’s do theatre that we can talk about and discuss, not just fluff.
Her Name Was Mary plays from September 8th-17th as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Tickets: $7 – $14 | Location: Studio 16
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