The Violet Sisters explores the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy through he eyes of two sisters who are struggling with their own demons, regrets and tragedy. They must reconcile old wounds over their father’s funeral in a home that is both literally and symbolically falling apart, but it is the personal pain that resonates with director Sarah Vickery.
“End of last year and into the first months of this year, was an emotionally turbulent period in my life,” says Vickery. “When I read this play, I saw aspects of myself in these characters, and I empathised with them greatly. I felt compelled to have them heard. I think we all want to be heard when we are in pain. So even more so than self resonation I felt it would resonate with an audience.”
Authored by young US playwright Gina Femia, the story is one she knows well. Femia is a Brooklyn based writer who experienced Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath and is thus writing from a very personal place. “She explores the damage miscommunication and suppression can cause,” says Vickery. “Family dynamics are complex, individuals are complex, we all have our coping mechanisms. Femia dives into some dark themes that transpire surrounding the bond between siblings and how they cope with and without each other. Hurricane Sandy was a true event but it also mirrors symbolically the damage that occurred in the past and present emotionally for these characters.”
This is an intimate work, with only two actors, and for director Vickery this is a joy. “I LOVE intimate rehearsals like this,” she says. “This story is raw, tender and devastating but with powerful redemptive qualities that really creates huge amounts of room for audience thought exploration. I think as a team we feel quite humbled by the circumstances these characters are in and what they are going through. With a small cast like this as a director you can really indulge in the details and the organic nature small intimate one act plays like this bring. There’s an amplified meditative focus that becomes tangible in the room. The joy of finding where the pulse lies within the text and massaging it to its full beating capacity, there is nothing else like it. It’s an honour to be collaborating with such talented and committed actors. I’m an actors director, the rehearsal room is my happy place.”
Vickery admits to always being drawn to dramatic texts with themes that reveal significant conflicts of character. “I’m drawn to stories with strongly written characters I’m not particular on style,” she says. “Whether it’s Sarah Kane’s ‘ Psychosis 4.48’, Lillian Hellman’s ’ The Children’s Hour’ or Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ I want to tell stories that connect with people’s deeper selves. There’s theatre to entertain, and to a degree of course I want the audience to experience that but more so I’m interested in moving people, theatre has the ability to change people. There’s a lot of “ Stylistic” directing going on to our main stages at the moment, and I think the audience feels ripped off. I know I do. I want realness I can connect to. That’s the kind of theatre I care about.”
It is certainly the ‘realness’ of The Violet Sisters that promises to enthral an audience – that and the compelling story of two sisters discovering truths about themselves and the world around them set to the backdrop of an environment in violent disarray. As Vickery says: “It’s about real shit. Not bullshit.”
THE VIOLET SISTERS