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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chatting With Michelle Haner About Her Play, The Unheard of World

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Brian Livingston and Joan Howard - ROBBIE SWEENY
  • Robbie Sweeny
  • Brian Livingston and Joan Howard

Described as a "dark, eccentric fantasy," The Unheard of Worlda theater piece by the French playwright Fabrice Melquiot, comes to Exit Theater courtesy of foolsFURY Theater Company. The show is currently underway and runs through Oct. 31.

The Unheard of World is a strange tale like no other. The play is set in a city which exists in the roots of trees, a city which serves as the home to every person who has ever lived. The characters, director Michelle Haner tells SF Weekly, are living with the memory of what it means to be alive.

"What is our relationship to the living and to the dead?' Haner asks. "What does it mean to die?"

click to enlarge Michelle Haner - COURTESY OF MICHELLE HANER
  • courtesy of Michelle Haner
  • Michelle Haner
These and other existential questions are asked as the play progresses, which Haner promises, is filled with "wonderful characters." One of The Unheard of World's residents is known as "no child".

"He decides not to be born," Haner tells us. "He grows to be seven years old in his mother's belly, which kills them both."

The child can see the world through his mother's eyes, Haner says, and thinks the world looks like an awful place.

There are only six actors in The Unheard of World, yet billions live in this invisible city. "How do we convey so many people?" Haner asks. "We invite you to imaginatively create images of this futuristic world in ways that are more powerful than if we were to do all the work for you."

There is no way out of this world, no way to truly die. "Except to be forgotten by this little girl who lives there," said Haner. "She's half-girl, half-bear, and wants to be a ballet dancer. She has the ability to forget people — it's as though they never existed."

It's certainly a strange sounding show, yet one which might make its audiences think about why each of us is here. Haner, who said that she was once a "jobbing actress in Los Angeles" (credits include CSI and HBO's Deadwood), spent seven years in France, working in that country's vibrant theater community.

"Theater is a big part of the culture in France," she recalls. She studied while in France and found theater to be far more satisfying. "Suddenly theater seemed like a career to me," she said. She came back to the USA and now calls Berkeley home and is a resident company member of the foolsFURY company. In addition to staging The Unheard of World, foolsFURY is publishing a collection os Melquiot's plays, which Haner translated from the original French in collaboration with Ben Yalom, the company's Executive Director and founder.

Haner points out that The Unheard of World is a show that the blind and visually impaired can enjoy.

"It's definitely accessible to the blind," she said. "The cast reads stage directions — that and the music helps to create the play's atmosphere."

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