“HIR” by Taylor Mac is a powerful dark comedy, currently on stage at the McManus Theatre, at the Grand in London, ON.
Writing in The Guardian, theatre critic Kate Hennesy says that the play “reminds us of theatre’s potential: to be a brilliant conduit that makes ideas alive and accessible.”
With the theme of the family at its core, “Hir” explores gender fluidity, queer theory and the subversion of toxic masculinity.
Zoe Bernard plays the role of Max, the youngest child of the Connor family. Bernard attended Strathroy District Collegiate Institute and has performed with the Grand’s High School Project in “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Julius Caesar.”
1) What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to play the role of Max, and why?
Max was actually the very first queer role I was cast in, and the opportunity to play a queer character (let alone one whose gender identity was similar to mine) felt like such validation as a queer actor. I want to veer exclusively toward queer roles in my acting career, and this experience has definitely helped me solidify that decision. Never have I had so many people ask for my correct pronouns and take the time to use inclusive language (even simple things like ‘folks’ instead of ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to make everyone feel at home).
2) Are there any points of view expressed in the play, or any language that Mac uses in the play that you take issue with, as a queer actor?
I like to tell everyone that I am an aggressively queer person. So the language Mac uses is similar to the language I use every day, and have become very comfortable with. I’m a huge supporter of using words that have historically been used as slurs and hate speech and reclaiming them with exclusively positive connotations.
3) The complexities of a family can be a challenge to portray with authenticity. Relationships, happy and loving or explosively dysfunctional, develop over a long period. How did you bond with the rest of the cast and create such a believable family unit?
It was a natural development of that familiarity throughout the rehearsal process, but I think we bonded so quickly and so deeply because of the things we put each other through in the play. You can’t go through scenes like that without checking in with each other and making sure everyone is safe, everyone is okay, everyone still loves each other in reality. We created such a believable family unit because we really have become one, I like to think.
4) Taylor Mac said about his play HIR, “You can come and you don’t have to decide how you feel about it. You could actually go to it and say, “Oh, it’s talking about these issues. Let me think about these issues for the rest of my life now”. How have audiences been reacting to the play?
So far we have had strong reactions! Everyone I’ve spoken with has mentioned the emotional rollercoaster they went through in the audience, and how they’re left with so many questions. People aren’t sure what to think afterward, but they know they’re glad they went.
5) As the part of a younger generation in this story and in this cast, what was it like to work with Ingrid Blekys, Deighton Thomas and John Gerry? Any valuable takeaways from this experience?
John is the first director I’ve had who asked us to delve so deeply into the story leading up to the events in the script. The rehearsal process didn’t start with us reading the lines and figuring out the blocking – we spent the first month or so just asking why, when, and how did we get here?
I think building that foundation was vital to how genuine our impulses are onstage. Ingrid is a force to be reckoned with, in and out of character. I have learned what true passion is from watching her on and offstage. It has been a privilege to work with her. Deighton is funny and taciturn and says the most oddly profound things in the fewest words. His portrayal of Arnold made me care for a character I initially never thought I could.
Ingrid Blekys, Zoe Bernard, Rob Deman, Deighton Thomas.
photo: Jackie Noble
Either / Or
From each pair below pick one. Briefly explain.
Cook at home or Take-Out?
Cook at home. I love being in the kitchen with my partner.
Book or Movie?
Book. My favourite way to get lost.
Dogs or Cats?
Cats, only because that’s what I have right now. But I love dogs!
Shakespeare or Not?
Shakespeare of course! It’s not my fault, it’s genetic. My dad teaches high school drama so I’ve been watching Shakespeare since I was about 6 years old.
iPhone or Android?
Android. Ol’ faithful.
McManus Stage at the Grand
Runs until Dec. 15, 8:00pm
Purchase Tickets Online
Box office: 519-672- 8800