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I got to sit down with the director of The December Man (L'homme de décembre), Diana Lobb, and talk to her about her new show and the significance of it.
Diana is no stranger to KWLT. Last season alone she was involved in three of the five shows, including directing last season’s opener, Blood Relations, and is now on the Board as our Communication Director. She has directed Imigration Acts and has directed March Madness as well.
When she’s not directing a show or memorizing lines, Diana is a lecturer at the University of Waterloo/St Jerome's in the English department, teaching literature, criticism and communication skills.
“When I was growing up, I always said that my dream career was to read books and talk to people about them all day, and I had no idea that was a real job. And then I found out that it was a real job, so I did it.”
It was a passion that stayed with her into her adult life and connected her even more with her family. Both of her parents were teachers, and so were her aunts, uncles and grandparents. In a way you can say that she joined the family business.
“I love teaching. The first time I actually taught was in my Master’s degree, [and] the first time I saw the ‘light’ go on behind my students eyes… I was hooked! I called my parents and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me this was so cool?!’”
The December Man (L'homme de décembre) holds a very special place in Diana’s heart. During the time of the Montreal Massacre, Diana was in her last year of her Science degree at the University of Waterloo. She was on track to doing STEM programs before getting into English and had gone to Waterloo for Science because of their co-op program. She had also been accepted to the Engineering programs at McMaster and Queen’s. At that time, it never occurred to her that as a woman in STEM, it would be possible for it to be seen as a threat that would warrant someone wanting to kill her.
“I so identified with the women that were murdered. Why would [someone] want to kill someone just because they were trying to get an education? These were women like me that were interested in Math and Science. It profoundly changed the way that I looked at the world. It made me feel so much less safe. Not enough to make me want to stop doing what I was doing, but just - frightened.”
This year marks the 30h anniversary of the murders at L’École Polytechnique, and even within the last 5 or 6 years, women are still being attacked and murdered just because they are professionals, individuals, and are doing what they love. And it’s not just women. People are being criticized for the colour of their skin, their religion and a lot of other factors.
“Those 14 women died 30 years ago and we didn’t learn anything. I think maybe we need to remind ourselves that we all share in those moments; that we are all damaged by those moments, and that maybe then we’ll work to make those moments impossible.”
Even though the underlying topic of the show is the murders at L’École Polytechnique 30 years ago, the story itself centres around a fictional family, the Fournier’s, and the affects the fateful event caused them.
“The Fournier’s are horribly, horribly ordinary. They are just everyday people, living everyday lives. They are no more dysfunctional than the next family.They love each other and they are destroyed by something that isn’t their fault, that they had no control over; by somebody's hate, and it just explodes their ordinary lives. Part of the message of the play is: this doesn’t happen to other people; it doesn’t happen to the exceptional. It could happen to any of us.”
(Scott Cooper as Benoit and Susan Williams as Kate - Photo Credit: Michael L Davenport)
When it came to creating the vision for the show, Diana wanted it to be a realistic depiction of the Fournier’s home. A simple living room. The living room of a family who didn’t have much money and therefore used what they could. The intention being that when the audience looked at the set, they could have a sense of deja vu; a sense of nostalgia, and yet it’s completely ordinary. The set expresses the ordinary, real life of the characters, and the actors being those characters to life.
Like her previous shows, Diana wanted more than just acting from her actors. She wanted them to be connected and really feel the emotions that come from this play. She didn’t want them to be overly dramatizing; she was looking for something more.
“I want the actor to contact with the character; to find that point of empathy. It sounds strange but I actually don’t want them to act, I want them to feel. Feel their way into the character and then be the character.. To as natural and human as possible.”
There are many emotions that come out of this show, and the hope Diana has is that the audience will feel those emotions. The play deals with many issues that seldom ever get discussed, and Diana’s hope that we realize the uncomfortable hole we’ve dug ourselves into.
(Susan Williams as Kate and Scott Cooper as Benoit - Photo Credit: Michael L Davenport)
“My objective is to make them uncomfortable, because this is something you should feel uncomfortable about. I think we have a tendency to, as a society, run from what's uncomfortable to what is comfortable. To contain it…. That’s not how change happens; that’s not how learning happens. Sometimes you have to sit with the discomfort.”
You can’t just say it’s somebody else’s problem. What happened at L’École Polytechnique was not a ‘women’s problem’; it’s not a ‘women’s issue’. It’s a human problem. It’s not about them, it’s about us. There is no ‘them’, there is only ‘us’. We share in that trauma, and it’s only by sharing in that trauma and feeling that trauma that we as a society move to fix the problems that allowed this to happen;allows it to keep happening.”
It seems ridiculous to believe that tragedies like this, even after 30 years, continue to happen. School shootings, acts of violence against minorities, bombings in places of worship. It has to stop. The December Man is an example of art expressing life and it’s telling us to wake up and realize what we are doing. Face the true reality of our actions. And in order to do that, we need to look back at the damage and see what has happened. As Diana so beautifully stated: “Sometimes you have to look at the ugly to find your way to the beautiful.” Let’s find our way to the beautiful, shall we.
Important plays like these need time and (hu)manpower to put on. If you ever wondered what it would be like to work on a theatre production, what better way than to start in our own little community! We are continuously looking for help with our show: be it auditioning, being a crew member, helping with set build or strike, or even being an usher doing our show runs. It’s not that hard to do, and everyone is welcome! Check out our website for updates on how you can help. Currently we are still looking for ushers during the run. It’s a great way to see the show (for free!) and get more connected with our community. If you are interested, contact the box office manager ( ).
Diana’s advice to you: “Show up! Show up; push your way in! It takes courage. But that’s theatre; theatre takes courage!”
Coming soon: Lenore Brooks talks about her design of The December Man set.
And now I leave you with one final remark from the lovely Diana:
“Come and see the play! I would be grateful [for you to] come and see that play because it’s important. It’s a conversation I would like people to have, or to join.
(Susan Williams as Kate, Nathan Chaytor as Jean and Scott Cooper as Benoit - Photo Credit: Michael L Davenport)