Johnnie Walker talks with Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken of Mouthpiece about the journey of the show so far.
How do you describe Mouthpiece to people who don’t know what it is?
We describe Mouthpiece as a two-woman performance that explores what it is like to be on the inside of one woman’s head through sound, music, text, and movement.
Do you think of it an unconventional play?
It is “unconventional” in that it doesn’t rely solely on one realistic linear narrative structure to tell the story, but it is still a story being told on stage under lights in front of an audience who is sitting in the dark. We haven’t completely dismantled the structure of the theatre; stay tuned for our NEXT show for that.
What was your impetus for creating the play?
The two of us did not set out to make this play. In 2012, we started work on a project entitled ‘House on Fire’ that was inspired by the work of poets such as Anne Sexton, Amy Gerstler, and Sharon Olds. But as we began to delve into the territory of women in relation to each other, it tore open the fabric of our assumptions about our relationships with ourselves. We began looking at why women relate to each other in certain ways and realized that what was at the heart of our search was boiling underneath of that; how we relate to ourselves.
Like perfectly placed dominoes, just a couple of days of random events and realizations bumped into each other and our discourse completely changed. We began to think about ourselves differently, about our society differently, and the conversation transformed into a bigger and messier set of questions. We had to re-evaluate everything we had developed up until that point and were compelled to create Mouthpiece because it felt urgent, pressing, and necessary.
This show has had such an impressive journey! You’ve gone on tour, you’ve won awards, and you’ve gone through the action of performing the show many times already. What has this journey been like and how has the show been affected by it?
The week before we premiered the show in 2015, we were so uncertain of how it would be received that during our dress rehearsal we both independently considered the possibility that it might be the flop of the century, and a reason for early retirement. The fact that a year later we are looking back at a big swath of tour dates and looking forward to another year of touring across Canada and a run in Toronto at one of our favourite cultural institutions… it all feels very surreal. But it also feels correct. There is a turning over happening in our culture regarding gender and sexism, and this play feels relevant and urgent no matter how many times we perform it. Especially as we take the show to different communities across Canada and hear the same response from the Yukon to Ottawa; that it is a fucking shame that we still need to have this conversation, but the truth is that we do.
These conversations are beginning to take place on a larger and more prominent platform, as events such as Jian Ghomeshi’s trial take place, and our relationship to the cause is constantly being re-evaluated. As we begin to create our new work, we have to consider what is urgent now and how do we share stories outside of our own personal experience?