Director’s Note: Habitat

Sep 21, 2006

In my past exploration of the plays of Judith Thompson, I have discovered her passionate need to protect the under dogs of society: the lower class, the minorities, and most importantly – the children. Judith has five of her own. Many of her plays have a re-occurring theme: that each one of us has a monster, or beast inside of us. It is how we deal with this demon, that renders us free and full of hope; or imprisoned and haunted by despair.
In Lion in the Streets, a displaced little soul discovers she is dead, and hunts down the murderer who took her life. Isobel faces her fear and rage, forgives him, and transcends to freedom. In Perfect Pie, Patsy and Marie revisit their childhood to unravel the mystery of a brutal rape and terrifying train accident that damages them both physically and emotionally. By facing their monster, the women are able to win back their present, and look to the future.
Judith’s past work has often been described as gritty and dark-humoured: living with the gruesome and macabre is the norm for her characters. Often on the edge of unspeakable darkness – haunted and hunted – they are forced into dangerous corners and must fight back kicking and screaming. This is what her audience has come to expect.
Flash forward to Habitat, where this new world seems bright and opulent and full of promise. Where is the monster? Be careful. He’s always waiting in the dark.
In this play, social worker Lewis Chance manages to open a group home in the middle of a very wealthy suburb in Toronto, and fights for the welfare of his troubled teenaged wards. The rich and the underprivileged engage in a battle to win custody of this precious property, or territory, or ‘habitat’.
When Roger Shultz and I began our first preliminary discussions, we decided on this definition of property, territory, or ‘habitat’:
“A structure that affords a controlled environment for living, in extremely inhospitable locations.”
Perhaps there is more at stake in Habitat than what appears on the surface. There is a need to protect ourselves, our homes, our communities and our countries from the enemy. But who, in the end, is the enemy? And who ultimately, does the community belong to? It made me question my own definition of ‘habitat’ or home. It brought me back to Judith’s re-occurring theme:
When backed into a corner kicking and screaming, and forced to deal with the monster inside each one of us, we can make decisions that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, or we can become spiritually homeless.
Welcome to Habitat. It’s time to clean house.