dirty butterfly, currently running at Aki Studio in Toronto, is the most recent production from Bound to Create Theatre, the double Dora-nominated company established in 2004 by married couple and co-artistic directors Jack Grinhaus and Lauren Brotman.
Grinhaus, who spent his youth at Associated Hebrew Day School and Camp Ramah, began his theatre training at the age of eight at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. He went on to perform in community and touring productions, including the Holocaust drama I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which, he says, shaped his interest in serious drama for the stage.
“I do a lot of work with Jewish theatre companies that send artists into schools to use art as a way of teaching about tolerance.” he said. “I also worked for a while at the Al Green Theatre and have done some work for the Harold Green Theatre. I am currently translating an Israeli play called Nutcase by Yael Ronin that I hope will be our next project for Bound to Create.”
Brotman was also exposed to theatre at a young age. Her father has always been deeply involved in the arts community and she spent much of her childhood at his play rehearsals. In university, she realized she wanted to pursue a similar career and decided to study drama at the University of Toronto. She later trained classically with Soulpepper and at the Globe Theatre in London, England as one of 10 international artists through the Christopher Plummer Fellowship Award.
Brotman, who is half-Jewish, said she recently took a trip with her husband’s family to Israel, where she “felt a deep connection” to the country. “Part of that was seeing phenomenal art and theatre and dance and it certainly inspired the kind of work we’ve been creating.”
When first establishing their company, Grinhaus said he and his wife had a vision for a type of theatre they really wanted to see more of. “Our interests lie in fringe social and political issues that directly relate to the current world climate and also in finding unique and innovative ways of presenting them. We tend to create fast-paced, edgy, intense and dark-themed work that pushes boundaries and challenges the artists we work with as well as the audiences that come to see them.”
Their mesmerizing and startling production of dirty butterfly explores voyeurism, power and guilt by confronting the collateral damage of domestic abuse and racial economic divide through a modern storytelling style that is equally blunt and poetic, he said.
“We chose this play to highlight an unfortunate truth that both domestic abuse and racism are actually on the rise. [Bound to Create] has partnered up with the White Ribbon Campaign for this show, with proceeds going to help raise awareness about violence against women.”
The play is about three people, two black and one white, who live in adjacent tenement houses in a poor London neighbourhod.
Grinhaus said the play’s subject matter is heavy, but the show itself is “highly theatrical and entertaining, challenging both artists and audiences to work their way through an almost postmodern style of writing for the theatre.”
Brotman said the play has “a musicality and poetry to its form” and challenges the audience to listen in a new way. “The text is fast-paced, the language broken up and overlapping. But the exciting rhythm is what we believe will compel audiences to keep up with it.”
Aside from focusing on dirty butterfly, Brotman and Grinhaus have been devoting their attention to their new baby boy.
“He’s a dream,” said Grinhaus. “Little Ethan Jude came at this amazing time in our lives where we are birthing a great piece of art and a real life work of art. And he’s such a good kid, rarely crying, and with us every day in rehearsal – a true theatre baby. Every time we get stressed out, there he is to calm us and let us escape the mayhem with his beautiful eyes and infectious smile.”
While his son and wife inspire him to excel both personally and professionally, Grinhaus said his Jewish background is also a big influence.
“My grandparents were in Auschwitz and the horror stories we all share from that past makes many of us less tolerant to the injustices of the world. My talents happened to fall into the arts so much of my work comes from my own voracious appetite to speak human truths and out injustices. Almost every piece of theatre I create attempts to spark a public debate on an issue that isn’t spoken of publicly.”
The North American professional premiere of Debbie Tucker Green’s dirty butterfly play is part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 Season Presentation Series. It runs until Nov. 17 at Aki Studio, 585 Dundas St.. E., Toronto. To purchase tickets call 416-531-1402.
For more information on Bound to Create Theatre, visit www.boundtocreate.com.