The Refugee Project – Interviews

Date posted: March 18, 2019

The Belfry Theatre has commissioned Joel Bernbaum to conduct interviews across the country with refugees and sponsors of refugees.  These interviews will be transcribed, and portions of some of them will form the text of a new piece of verbatim theatre, provisionally called The Refugee Project, which will focus on the moral and ethical dilemma of balancing empathy with practicality.

Joel Bernbaum was previously commissioned by the Belfry to create a verbatim play on homelessness in Victoria.  After conducting over 500 interviews with people from all walks of life – from the Mayor to people living on the street, from primary school students to people in the city’s most prestigious neighbourhoods – and through a number of workshops, Bernbaum sculpted a script that explored the issue from many different viewpoints.  The Belfry premiered that play, now titled Home Is A Beautiful Word,in January of 2014.  That production was remounted in April of 2018, by Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon.

Bernbaum uses a number of interview scenarios, including prearranged meetings, door-to-door cold calls, and “streeters” – stopping people on the street and asking them to respond to questions.  After an initial series of cross-Canada interviews, he is currently assembling more material through follow-up interviews and interviews with new people.

Joel Bernbaum

Joel Bernbaum is an actor, playwright, journalist and founding artistic director of Sum Theatre in Saskatoon.  He is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and Carleton University, where he did his Master’s Thesis on Verbatim Theatre’s Relationship to Journalism.  He is grateful to Michael Shamata, the Belfry Theatre and the hundreds of Victoria residents who helped create Home Is A Beautiful Word bygenerously sharing their stories and thoughts. Joel’s other produced plays include Operation Big Rock and My Rabbi (with Kayvon Khoshkam).  Joel newest verbatim play, Reasonable Doubt, is a collaboration with Indigenous artists Lancelot Knight and Yvette Nolan, and will be produced by Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre in 2020.