SANCTUARY, by Emil Sher, directed by Colleen Williams, with Adrian Churchill and Jennifer Hall. Presented by Dante Theatre at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Aug 4 and 7 at 7 pm, Aug 6 at 2:30 pm, Aug 8 at 11 pm, Aug 11 at 5 pm, Aug 13 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
A good plot can't exist without strong characters to support it. That's the thinking of Emil Sher, author of Sanctuary.
"Whatever the medium, I know that audiences are drawn to character," says Sher by phone from a cottage in the Gatineau hills. "You have to engage with a character, even if the person is unlikeable, to guarantee that the storytelling experience will be memorable."
A two-hander about an artist and a mysterious woman who meet on a rocky beach, Sanctuary was first staged in the 1991 Fringe with Keith Kemps and Kathryn Miller.
It's had a number of other stagings since then, including one in New York City and another at a fundamentalist college in Arkansas, where the director wanted to tell this tale of emotional abuse but asked if she could remove the "cuss words."
"Everyone gives a different spin to the material, which is the beauty of theatre. A script is never static, but reinvented each time it's staged."
Director Colleen Williams has moved the action to Parkdale, and she impressed Sher by taking him for a walk through the Toronto community to give him a sense of who his characters might be in that setting.
Though best known for radio work -- his CBC drama Mourning Dove, inspired by the Latimer case, won an international radio-drama prize and is being adapted for the stage for Necessary Angel -- Sher also scripted Stiletto Company's Derailed and is currently working on a Montreal children's show.
Sanctuary grew out of a single visual image.
"I don't wait for the muse too long -- I'd rather write and see what comes forth. What emerged here is the sometimes comic tale of two wounded people who learn that the