Who are the victims of an act of violence? This seems like an easy question to answer — whoever was directly hurt by the violent act — but in The December Man (L'homme de décembre) the author Colleen Murphy argues that in cases of public violence (such as mass shootings) the answer isn't so clear-cut. The impact of such actions is felt well beyond the acts themselves, rippling out from the immediate victims to family members, witnesses, and ultimately an entire society. (Hence the spiderweb in our publicity imagery: breaking a single strand can be felt throughout the web.)
The cast and crew of KWLT's production of The December Man have relfected deeply on this question throughout the rehearsal process. Those who are old enough can still remember the Montreal Massacre in 1989 quite clearly. One member was a residence manager at an Ontario university at the time:
"Our reaction, given the university environment, was immediate and proactive. Over the next weeks and months, we became acutely aware of violence against women and developed many policies with regards to education and safety, that were implemented."
Others are too young to have direct memories of the event, but have still felt the impact:
"I remember growing up hearing about the events of that day, and of the memorials thereafter. I didn't really understand the gravity of it until I was in high school when Columbine occurred, and one of my teachers had devoted a day in class to discuss school violence, and touched on violence targeted at specific groups (sex/faith/ethniticy)."
"As a girl that has always been interested in tech, I remember hearing about the massacre from my mother, and feeling suck that women just like me were targeted in such a way."
A more recent touchstone for public acts of violence is 9/11, an event that still resonates some eighteen years later. While none of our production team was a direct witness to the events, all but the very youngest have memories of seeing the TV coverage:
"A student, who had been at the dentist, came in and began to relate to me that planes were falling out of the sky. At first, I dismissed it, but finally decided to put the radio on and immediately realized what was happening. I sent a student home at lunch to video tape the news and we watched as a class later. I still remember watching the two buildings collapse, and those images have haunted me since."
"I remember watching 9/11 unfold on my television. I was sick and was home resting in my living room watching TV when all of a sudden it changed to show one of the Trade Towers with a burn hole and smoke rising everywhere. Not too long after that I watched the second plane going into the second tower."
One question that resounds throughout the play: how do they keep breathing? In a world that's subject to such sudden and violent disruptions, what is it that keeps the victims of violence — and all of us — going? The cast and crew reflected on this as well:
"If we become paralyzed by fear, then we let those that perpetrate violence win."
"Knowing that there is still good in this world. Things might get crazy and frustrating, but I believe the good outweigh the bad, and we should all remember the meaning of kindness and love for others,"
"The knowledge that every woman who fights back against stereotypes and gender restraints is staging her own revolution against this sort of fear, hatred, and violence."
"Knowing that better IS possible, and that there’s a next generation counting on us."
KWLT's production of The December Man (L'homme de décembre) runs from November 21 to December 7. Get your tickets here.