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March 18, 2013

Show and Tell – Actress Grace Lynn Kung on La Ronde

Grace Lynn Kung
If we’re going to do La Ronde in 2013 we have to make it 2013 – our vernacular, our memes, our city. This adaptation is special because I think Jason knew who had been cast while writing, so it feels tailored to our team. This adaptation is a living lithograph of the time we inhabit.

When I read the latest draft before rehearsals began, there was a moment where I actually turned around to see if Jason Sherman was behind me.  I believe it was when I read that my character was from Ottawa.  My inner voice kept saying “Yup.. Yup.. Yup..”  I get this girl. Zoe is a girl you know, or yourself. She is an antenna tuned to how she is viewed and her effect on the viewers. As an actor, especially a woman in film and TV, you’re acutely aware of how you are viewed. She is younger and sweeter than her persona and covers vulnerability with brazenness. Hard work reaps progress in her career but not her relationships (can I get an Amen?), she’s smart enough to know her patterns but honestly can’t tell who she can trust emotionally and physically (sound familiar?), and when things don’t work out – in seemingly cyclical fashion – she blames herself (stop following us Jason!).

We’d like the audience to pack a lunch of open mind and heart with an adventurous spirit. Much of the play feels lifted straight out of the lives of my friends and I; I suspect that will be the case for the audience too. Some may feel exposed, seeing versions of themselves and their relationships on stage. There may be equal parts seduction and embarrassment, arousal and sadness, maybe even anger. No matter the reaction, I hope there will be questions. Maybe days later, at breakfast, you’ll ask yourself a question you’ve been too afraid to ask. Maybe you’ll write someone you’ve been wanting to write for a long time.

We have online dating, online porn, amateur sex videos, e-communities for fetishes, voyeurism – if you want to wear mascot uniforms while filing car manuals with the Dewey Decimal System you can find others who do too. I read about Notre Dame’s linesman Te’O whose whole relationship was conducted without an in-person meeting. Later it was discovered that his girlfriend was a hoax via social networks and orchestrated Skype phone calls. Stories like that are markers of today. Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake were universally known almost overnight. Police departments upload videos to try and catch hit and run drivers; they weren’t doing that ten years ago.

We have the illusion of connection but in many ways have lost the energy exchange. If pheromones are how we attract mates, what happens now? Is chemistry the ability to banter in 140 characters? On Facebook you can scope out social resumés of friends and potential lovers before even sitting down for a coffee. Has texting become the new foreplay?

Yet… I can see the faces of my friends all over the world. I’ve FaceTimed with my Grandma as she kept trying to touch my face through the phone. I have a one-upping competition with a friend in the UK, filming and publishing antics via unlisted YouTube links. Because of technology, geography does not dictate level of intimacy.

I love this group. It takes so much trust, bravery and team spirit to do a play like this. I want to lick each and every one of them! And because of the nature of the show, I get to! I hope a young and broad audience will find this piece. It really is La Ronde 2013 right now. Open your laptop and you’ll find it, go out the door and you’ll see it, sit in a bar and you’ll sense it. Or come to Soulpepper and we’ll show you ours.