"To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." - Bertrand Russell
UNITY (1918) is a play about a specific place in Canada facing a particular challenge, at a particular point in history, yet despite the distance of time and place, this is a story that poses important questions relevant to any community in Canada today. Canadians in 2015 may not be confronting the world’s worst flu pandemic, but we are definitely facing some significant problems: climate change, financial instability, security and freedom, race and gender inequity, to name just a few. Our recent federal election demonstrated that our political leaders are capable of using fear as a tactic to gain unity around a specific problem. Fear and unity share a unique relationship in the play you are about to experience. Kevin Kerr’s text posits a surreal speculation about how fear itself becomes virus-like and infectious in a community. In our exploration of how death became both a conscious and subconscious reality in Canada in the wake of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, we have made certain stylistic choices to represent this time and place. Following clues in the play, the design is surreal, suggesting a dreamscape of peculiar associations that may come to anyone, or any community, in a state of stress or panic. We have incorporated physical theatre elements of Ankoku Butoh that capture the liminal experience between life and death that existed in Japan after World War II. For us, this style offers insight into how we may move past fear, and find a kind of embodied wisdom in the way we perform a reality that nearly scares us to death. UNITY (1918) is an important play for our time; in relation to our own stressful, 24-7 news cycle of traumatic events, this play invites us to embrace the life-affirming qualities that theatre offers, and I hope that in this experience, together, we may find the courage to laugh, think deeply, and explore what compels us to create community.