Arts & entertainment

Communicating with empathy in ‘HIR’

Miners Alley hosts regional premiere of kitchen sink drama

Posted 2/7/17

In a changing world, one of the things people often find comfort in is family, and the familiarity in those relationships.

That is certainly what Isaac, a recently discharged Marine in Taylor Mac’s play “HIR,” is looking for when he returns …

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Arts & entertainment

Communicating with empathy in ‘HIR’

Miners Alley hosts regional premiere of kitchen sink drama

Posted

In a changing world, one of the things people often find comfort in is family, and the familiarity in those relationships.

That is certainly what Isaac, a recently discharged Marine in Taylor Mac’s play “HIR,” is looking for when he returns from war. But the family he comes home to isn’t the one he left.

Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Ave., hosts the regional premiere of “HIR,” directed by Josh Hartwell, through March 5. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

“This show really deals with the issues of change and progress,” said Royce Roeswood, who plays Isaac. “The show is very much in the vein of a kitchen sink drama, and fits perfectly in the close atmosphere audiences get at Miners Alley.”

The family Isaac returns to after his service is almost completely changed — his father, Arnold (Marc Stith), was a patriarch with little room for kindness or empathy, but has had a stroke. His mother Paige (Martha Harmon Pardee) has taken on management of the house in his place and wants to do things differently. And his younger sister Maxine is in the process of transitioning to becoming his brother, Max (Cory Sapienza).

We spoke to Roeswood and Pardee, and about some of the features they said makes “HIR” such a unique show:

Point 1: The subject matter — “I think this show provides a great learning opportunity about the transgender community, which is one many people may not be familiar with,” Roeswood said. “I think the theater is a great place for this, because audiences are hearing these stories from a live person.”

The show’s title comes from the gender pronoun that Max adopts in the show, Pardee explained.

“A lot of the play is about acknowledging the language people use to describe themselves,” she added. “Now more than ever, we need to bear down on empathy and demystification of things we don’t understand.”

Point 2: The depth — “HIR” can be enjoyed on several layers, Pardee said. There’s the plot and the characters if viewers want to stay on the surface, but digging into themes and motivations leads to some powerful perspectives.

“More and more ideas keep revealing themselves the more you think about it,” she said. “Audiences will be able to relate to a lot of the dynamics at work in the show.”

The arc of the characters is particularly compelling, Roeswood added.

“It’s easy to take sides at the beginning,” he said. “It becomes more difficult as the story goes on and more surprises are revealed. By the end, it’s hard to be on anyone’s side.”

Point 3: The conversation — Both Pardee and Roeswood said they hope the play sparks conversations for audience members, not only about the challenges facing the transgender community, but about familial relationships.

“The show is definitely boundary pushing,” Rosewood said. “It’s exciting to be talking about things in the theater people often don’t speak about.”

Golden, Miners Alley Playhouse, arts, theater, entertainment, HIR, Josh Hartwell, Clarke Reader

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