Members of the public will be individually affected by “The Sylvia Effect”

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Theater Kingston returns to the Grand Theater stage with The Sylvie effect, written and directed by Peter Hinton-Davis. The room, which opened on Wednesday October 27, 2021 – the date that would have been Sylvia Plath’s 89th birthday – was originally scheduled to open last winter, but was forced to close due to the pandemic lockdown.

Both director and playwright, Peter Hinton-Davis has worked in Canada since the mid-1980s, performing a wide variety of work, from new plays to classical repertoire and opera. From 2005 to 2012 he was artistic director of the English theater at the National Art Center (NAC). Since that time he has been in residence at Niagara on the Lake, working with the Shaw Festival.

The Sylvia Effect, written and directed by Peter Hinton-Davis and presented by Theater Kingston, is currently underway at the Grand Theater. Photo via the Kingston Theater.

“It’s amazing to be in Kingston and to know that the Kingston Theater exists and is playing new plays,” says Hinton-Davis. “We often think of new Canadian work happening a lot in Toronto, Vancouver, so it’s great that it’s happening here. Great for people who live here.

Hinton-Davis chose Sylvia Plath as his muse, “Because she’s a brilliant poet and a great artist, first of all, and I think she’s often misrepresented or misunderstood. People borrow quite freely from everything we know about their personal life, and this is written down in the poems. And so, there’s sort of a myth about Sylvia Plath as a tortured, neurotic, or destructive personality. And I think it really fails to understand how brave a person she was. “

The play takes its name and inspiration from the idea that poets and artists are more likely to suffer from mental illness. “The Sylvia Plath Effect” was first coined in 2001, by James C. Kaufman, a psychologist who named the effect after Plath, who committed suicide at the age of 30. According to other researchers, the link between artistic creativity and mental illness remains. controversial and subject to debate.

“I was really inspired by her and her voice,” Hinton-Davis says. However, he “was struck by this psychological condition that was proposed in the early 2000s called the ‘Silvia Plath effect’, which tried to make connections between creativity and psychopathology, which drove me crazy. The choice of words was somehow dangerous. It makes me really worried to hear this because it’s the creative impulse that keeps us alive, that keeps us aware, that keeps us present in the world we live in.

“Sylvia Plath rose to fame, in part because of the way she passed away. But, as often with artistic success, it was also a question of timing. Write against time. This relationship to time makes her an ideal subject for the theater. The challenge for me is to go beyond the tragic story to any kernel of experience or truth that might be waiting on the other side, ”he explains.

“We try to treat mental health issues very carefully. She’s a really interesting person, not because of the way she died, but more of the way she lived and the way she saw the world, and what she had to offer us. about the world we live in.

The play addresses the emotional confessions of four simply named characters: The Daughter, The Poet, The Mother and The Son. There are poems, lectures, and denominational monologues in the show, but Hinton-Davis doesn’t think you have to be an expert on Plath or his work to appreciate the play.

“It plays with a lot of different forms, and one of them, playful I think for a lot of artists, is that it takes place and some kind of afterlife – in a purgatory, if you want. Three of the characters in the play are deceased, and one commits a sort of conspiracy to try and highlight these people from his past. And this purgatory is a radio station in which, for eternity, they are interviewed, ”says Hinton-Davis with a touch of irony.

“As even this interview is so difficult,” he emphasizes. “How do I answer the questions to really represent the play other than coming to see the play yourself?” Because I still have my prejudices. I’m going to have my humility, I’m going to have all these things that are going to get in our way, and it really comes down to [the fact that] the room is the thing that speaks for itself at the end of the day, and you will get different things out of it than my neighbor.

So the play is not a biography of Plath but “rather an imagination,” says Hinton-Davis, “and one of the characters tells how plays and movies like the idea that something is based on a true story. , to sort of authorize her fiction. And what she suggests is that when you think of any person – if I was telling your life story and you were telling mine – what is interesting is that if you have to imagine something about me, it is you. Yes, there are facts to be clarified and details that exist, but why things happen – only the person who has lived these things can really know. “

“You have to do justice to what you know, and you have to do yourself justice,” he continues, “like, in a way, you read about yourself. The way you would describe Sylvia Plath and how I would describe would be very different, and it would say something about us.

“We live as we identify with the world; what positions of privilege and what positions of experience we have, would inform that. That’s what’s interesting to me, ”Hinton-Davis says, noting the similarities in the poetry. “With poetry, it’s not that we all have the same meaning; we get different meanings.

Kingston Theater poster.

The Sylvia Effect is on stage at the Grand Théâtre until Sunday November 14, 2021. Visit the box office to order tickets. Ticket holders from March 2021 are asked to call the box office to discuss the new performance date they wish to attend. The Grand Théâtre ticket office can be reached at 613-530-2050, Monday to Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.

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