Men’s feelings are on centre stage

Studio 58 student stars in play that explores masculinity

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By Kenneth Wong

An upcoming play starring a Langara College student uses a hockey locker room setting to challenge traditional notions of masculinity by exploring the hidden boundaries of men’s emotions. 

Written by Sunny Drake and directed by Cameron Mackenzie, Men Express Their Feelings is about two fathers and their sons in a hockey dressing room having difficult discussions following a heated fight. The play tackles questions of gender, sexual identity and their cultural impacts. 

The play, premiering in Vancouver at the Firehall Arts Centre on March 18, stars Studio 58 student Quinn Churchill. 

Churchill said that the play can help men come to terms with what it means to be a man in the 21st century.

“This story speaks so specifically to what men go through,” Churchill said. “I feel like in our society, women have already worked out a lot of these things that these men are going through.”

Manisha Singh, a women’s studies instructor at Langara thinks that female audience members will still resonate with this play.

“There’s so much empathy around the fact that guys are socialized from the time they were small boys, to having to suck it up and repress their emotions,” Singh said. “Women are in relationships with men, we’re their partners, we’re their sisters, we’re their mothers.”

Churchill said the play made him more open to show what he’s struggling with regarding his own identity. His dad pressured him to be a professional hockey player at a time when he was trying to figure out his own masculinity. 

“What’s amazing about this role is that my character is going through all of that figuring out what exactly he wants to do with himself, who exactly he is,” Churchill said. 

George Belliveau, a UBC theatre research professor, believes theatre has potential to be a place where open dialogue can happen.

“You get to play someone who’s similar to you, but often you can also play someone who is different from you,” Belliveau said. “You might realize that maybe that character was not that different from you. So, you get to know a part of yourself that you maybe didn’t know was there.”

Ishan Sandhu and Quinn Churchill, actors in Men Express Their Feelings, have locker room conversations about gender and sexuality. Courtesy: Zee Zee Theatre Company.

Joshua Dodkin, a Vancouver hockey player with the LGBT team Cutting Edges, said these types of plays create a space for men to have conversations. 

“Locker room banter is just like guys ripping on each other,” Dodkin said. “Not always making the most accepting environment.”

Dodkin said that it is important to move away from the traditional binary gender and embrace a new vision.

“Twenty years ago, if you were to talk about [mental illness or sexuality] as a man, you’d be deemed unmanly,”  Dodkin said. “I think what [masculinity] should be about is caring about feminism, understanding that just being a man you’re given so much privilege, so you should be using that to make everyone equal.”

Directing the play helped Cameron Mackenzie see his own emotions from a new perspective. 

“I’m being affected by what I’m hoping other people will be affected by, which is learn to express [my feelings], learn to open up, learn to move through something challenging, and not just like, bottle it down,” Mackenzie said.

Sunny Drake wrote the play to have a structure like a hockey game with three periods and characters stepping out and providing commentary on their thoughts and feelings.

“I really find that comedy is such a way to draw people into difficult content,” Drake said. “It’s a fun play, and allows us to sort of sit with some really difficult things while getting to have a laugh, and a fun night out.”

                             Men Express Their Feelings examines traditional and progressive views regarding masculinity. Reporter Kenneth Wong takes a deeper look into how this play impacts audience members.

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