In her latest play, Carol Libman looks at the “Rashomon” effect, a phenomenon named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950s film Rashomon, where different people give contradictory accounts of the same event.
Martha, the central character in Libman’s Lies and Consequences, directed by Jeanette Dagger, experienced a traumatic event 30 years ago, when she was 10 years old, and she’s tried to keep it a secret.
Martha (Tara Baxendale) is a successful writer and university professor whose favourite cousin, Peter (Ryan Bannon), arrives at her university to receive an award for his ground-breaking medical research.
“Martha has absolutely no intention of this secret coming out, but then the whole thing blows up, right in the middle of this celebratory weekend,” Libman said.
The action of the play takes place over a single day. The characters include Martha’s sister, Cathy (Martha Breen); Peter’s wife, Karen (Clara Matheson); Peter’s dad, John (Christopher Kelk) and Andre, Martha’s ex-boyfriend (Derek Perks).
“The whole point is memory – everyone has a different story about what happened and when and how it happened,” Libman said.
Memories can be distorted. Libman recalls that her perceptions of past events have differed from those of her son, Daniel. “I know I have different stories of what happened at certain times than my son does. We were both there – the story was, I thought it was one way, he thought it was another way.”
A few questions arise from the play, Libman said, including, whether you can forgive if you really believe you’ve been wronged? And if you don’t, what happens to you?
She began working on Lies and Consequences about five years ago, wrote a few scenes and went on to other plays. At a playwriting intensive course given by Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre, Libman wrote a new opening scene, she said. “Then I was able to get back into it. I was avoiding it to a certain extent. It’s really a tough subject.”
Libman developed Lies and Consequences with the help of programs offered by the Alumnae Theatre.
“You have to have readings, you have to have revisions, and workshops if possible. It’s really good to have people to bounce ideas off and to get them to read scenes. It can take a long time. You have to do a lot of rewriting,” she said.
“They say plays are not written, they’re rewritten,” she reflected with a chuckle.
Libman, a former Montreal Gazette journalist, has had some 11 of her plays produced. She got her start as a playwright at a theatre festival in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where she lived in the mid-1950s.
Libman was one the founders of Playwrights Workshop Montreal, where she developed her own plays and helped other writers with theirs. The organization’s first mission, in 1963, the year it was launched, was to tackle the then-scarcity of English-Canadian plays and playwrights.
Turning 90 last year hasn’t hampered Libman’s creativity. “When you’re a playwright, when you’re a writer of any kind that’s what you do, that’s what you are. And you have ideas and you explore them,” she said.
“At this point I have a couple of other ideas I’m playing with. It may take me a long time to write them. They may never get written. I mull for a long time before I actually write anything.”
Lies and Consequences is presented by Rare Day Projects at Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E., Toronto, from April 30 to May 4, at 8 pm, May 2, 4 and 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door, cash only, $25 general admission, $20 for seniors, students, arts workers, or online at liesandconsequences.brownpapertickets.com.