Caitriona Murphy, left, and Stephanie Moroz in Between the Sheets by Jordi Mand. (photo by Tim Matheson)
Twenty-something Torontonian Jordi Mand is a Canadian playwright coming off a huge success with her first full-length script, Between the Sheets, the story of a parent-teacher interview gone awry. Local company Pi Theatre, known for its innovative and site-specific work, will treat Vancouver to the Western Canadian première of the play in an actual classroom at Admiral Seymour Elementary School in Strathcona.
The action revolves around two characters, Teresa, a Grade 3 teacher, and Marion, the well-heeled private-school power mom of Alex. Marion rushes into the classroom at the end of an evening for an unscheduled interview. The conversation deteriorates into an accusation from the furious Marion that Teresa is having an affair with her husband of 24 years, Curtis. As one would expect, Teresa vehemently denies the charge until the incriminating evidence is literally thrown in her face – a folder of romantic e-mails. Oh my! The predicament makes for 60 intense minutes of theatre.
In a telephone interview with the Independent, Mand spoke about her career and work. Born and raised in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, she attended Jewish day school and graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada. “Originally, when I went to theatre school, I thought I wanted to work in classical text and then, in my second year, a group of us adapted a novel and it was an amazing experience where we collaborated to create an independent piece of work. It started my writing heart to pulsate. When I graduated, I realized that acting was not for me. I hated the auditioning process and I was bored in rehearsal. Then I started to write and I realized that that was my passion and where I wanted to be.”
Mand has written a number of short plays but Between the Sheets is her first full-length work. “My idea for the script did not come from one particular thing but from a number of events in my life,” she said. “Some of the inspiration came from my personal health issues where I had to navigate the health system, which I found very difficult to do, and so part of Teresa’s experience with those same issues relates to that.
“Another aspect of the play comes from the time I was the drama instructor at a Jewish day camp in Ontario and I worked with special needs campers. I became very close to one with Down’s syndrome, Alex. He was this amazing, miraculous creature but he had a very complicated relationship with his mother. The memory of that has stayed with me all these years and is reflected in Marion’s character.
“As to the classroom setting,” she continued, “it sort of goes back to my Jewish upbringing. I went to a private Jewish school and perhaps in my subconscious I wanted to play out some of my anxieties from that time. A classroom means so much to different people. It allows for a different dynamic and interpretation of what is happening in the script.”
Between the Sheets had its world première in Toronto in 2012. The National Post called it “a gripping new play, terrifically performed.” The Globe and Mail critic declared, “If you handed out report cards for shows, Between the Sheets would get straight As.” While one of the critics was surprised at the sexual connotations of the title in relation to a school drama, Mand said, “I was surprised to read that comment. That was never my intention. The title comes from the fact that the two characters are in a tremendous amount of pain and together they share those kinds of feelings that we only let ourselves think about while we are in bed just before we fall asleep. So, to me, the title symbolizes a place where our loneliness and pain catch up with us.”
The play has had international exposure, with a successful run in New Zealand and a remount scheduled for later this year. To date, it has been produced in a theatre setting. Mand is excited that Pi will be using an actual classroom for its production. “Pi has a reputation for using non-traditional spaces in really inventive ways,” she commented. “Using a classroom makes the room the fifth character – it is magical and will open up the audience experience in so many ways. It will solidify what happens in real time and people will be a part of it. I am really excited to see how it turns out.”
Mand is grateful for the opportunities that the production has brought her at home and abroad, and the impact the play has had. “In Toronto, teachers and principals would come up to me after the show and thank me for telling this story. The script really stirred something in people. Once they see the show, they will never be able to look at a classroom in the same way again.”
Between the Sheets runs March 14-26 at Admiral Seymour school, 1130 Keefer St. For times and ticket information, visit pitheatre.com or call 604-872-1861.
Tova Kornfeld is a Vancouver freelance writer and lawyer.