Twenty-first-century media and political discourse sometimes makes "strangers" - refugees, immigrants, minorities - the scapegoats for social and economic disorder. In this heated climate, theatre has the potential to promote greater compassion and empathy for outsiders. A study of cultural difference in contemporary Canadian theatre, Staging Strangers considers how theatre facilitates an understanding of distant places and issues. Theatre in Canada, and especially in Toronto, has long been a place for communities to celebrate their traditions, but it is now emerging as a forum for staging stories that stretch beyond the local and the national. Combining archival research and performance analysis, Barry Freeman analyzes the possibilities and hazards of representing strangers, and the many ways the stranger on stage may be fetishized or domesticated, marked for assimilation, or turned into an object of fear. A fresh look at ways to cultivate ethical responsibility for global issues, Staging Strangers imagines a role for theatre in creating a more tolerant, caring, and cooperative world.
Barry Freeman is professor of theatre and performance studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough.