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Who Are We Now? Theatre Alberta Essay Series – Sue Goberdhan

Who Are We Now? Theatre Alberta Essay Series – Sue Goberdhan

A Letter To (and From) Sue Goberdhan, for you

Well Homeslice, we made it. 28. Holy shit. Almost don’t have the audacity to believe it, but we’re here. When you really stop and think about it, it’s kind of a miracle, isn’t it? Our dumb ass has fallen into laughably shallow holes, walked into windows with the precision of a Windex crow, and contracted a virus that feels like it’s murdered half the world and somehow, we’re still out here kicking ass.

People are always saying that we should live like we’re going to die tomorrow and it isn’t bad advice.

Covid didn’t feel like it would take us, it just felt like it was the most tired a human person could ever have been and absolutely nothing worse. Sleep felt like sanctuary. The thought crossed our mind that sleep could have been a distraction from the idea that maybe our organs were shutting down slowly, that maybe falling asleep was the last act of love this body would ever grant us in an effort to ease the anxiety that comes with evaporating back into the ether from which we came. We didn’t think about it. Not much. Just enough to make sure that if we made it to the other side of this thing, we’d have already taken stock of what it is that makes it worthwhile to have suffered and built ourselves back up in spite of the thing that could have taken us. People are always saying that we should live like we’re going to die tomorrow and it isn’t bad advice. It’s just advice you can’t fully take advantage of during a global sonofabitching pandemic. The next best thing to do feels like it is as simple as making some goddamn decisions about the lens through which you decide to look at the world and everything we have yet to see.

Look within. Think about it. Why are we still here? How much do we believe in luck? Fate? The Universe? God? How do we measure how much we believe in forces that exist in such bigger ways than we do? Is it a sliding scale between blind conviction and unrelenting skepticism? Can we quantify the ratio of belief to doubt with numbers? Is it even quantifiable or is it just a feeling that builds itself into a shackle that fits around the radius of our worldview?


Big questions. No answers.

The thing is, never knowing the answers actually can help us navigate our paths in this jiggy jungle if we stare our questions right between the eyes and decide that answers are for scientists, lest we forget that science makes us miserable; it feels like a cold way to approach the world, relying entirely on facts and not at all on instinct. Imagine seeing a bare-walled room and accepting it as such instead of recognizing it’s potential to evolve into a canvas. The answers we look for eliminate the imagination. If we somehow found a way to answer these impossible questions, that newfound certainty would have the potential to mutate into the hope that perhaps we got the answer wrong (if the answer pales in comparison to the dreams we once had for it.) This is why we make art.

We see the world for what it is: endless, beautiful possibility. We are given inanimate objects and non-geographical locations and somehow still manage to uncover all the overlooked cracks and crevices in which we find opportunities for making something extraordinary. In case it wasn’t obvious, we have clearly been through a lot in the last year. That being said, we did some big learning, too. In no particular order, here are some thoughts that will last us a lifetime:

Though it may not seem like it, we are never EVER too old to brush up on our active listening skills.

It is a real shame to have taken closeness for granted because nothing can replace it.

It has been 377 days since we last ran into a friend unexpectedly at a coffee shop and hugged them tight with that kind of unexpected happiness you can’t replicate unless it’s a surprise. In the “before-times,” we took our kismet run-ins for granted. The idea of that kind of privilege again brings a tear to the eye. It is a real shame to have taken closeness for granted because nothing can replace it. Although, having had our closeness taken away will undoubtedly serve as a cautionary tale; one that begs us to embrace togetherness like it’s a celebration for the rest of our lives. After the year we’ve had, endless frivolity feels like the only acceptable remuneration.

Our collective power as a community is astounding. When you stop and look at the strength of the artists in this province, it becomes clear that there’s little we couldn’t do if we did it together. It’s time to start believing in each other again.

Legally, we aren’t allowed to create theatre together in the same room, which is supposed to halt work altogether, yet somehow we do it anyways in spite of the distance between us. No one should dictate what theatre looks like other than the people who make it. Even if it needs to happen through a screen or in a barn or on a road or in an alley or in an ice cream shop or in a barber shop or at a bus station or with our eyes closed, it is theatre if the makers say so. We should always remember to look at it as a plasticine practice that evolves and shapeshifts as we do to adapt to the world we live in. WE make theatre what it is.

We have spent so much time worrying that we wouldn’t ever be able to chisel out enough space for us in this community. Homegirl, retire the chisel. Bring a bulldozer.

Being kind when the world is cruel is not an easy or simple thing to do. If a break is needed, TAKE IT. Life is too short not to live authentically. Be genuine.

Pre-Rona, we would push and push and push and make work no matter how little time it left for living life outside of work. Balance was an urban legend and we never took the time or initiative to chase it. Not only should we pursue balance in life and work, we should chase it, hold onto it, and never let it go. Be persistent.

Painting is the real Chicken Soup for the Soul.

We rarely recognize it, but our lives, opinions, and choices do not go unnoticed. Our impact is palpable and necessary to the changes we want to see in the community. People look up to us, whether we know it or not. Make good choices. Be kind.

We are entirely capable of tackling our dreams with the ferocity of a linebacker…

This pandemic has taught us that there isn’t a lot we have direct control over. Instead of weighing ourselves down with the melancholy that comes with recognizing just how tiny we are in comparison to the earth we live on and the troubles that surround us, we should instead focus on the fact that what we can control is our own audacity. We are entirely capable of tackling our dreams with the ferocity of a linebacker (I dunno if this is what a linebacker does tbh, I don’t sports… but you get the idea.) Those big dreams we keep putting on the backburner are just waiting for you to believe that you actually deserve them. YOU DESERVE THEM. Humility be damned! We are worthy of the dreams we put off for fear of them being too big. There is no such thing as too big when the world is so small that the entire globe catches the same virus.

We took this shock to the system as a wake up call; we let this global pause force us to reevaluate which parts of our lives we place value on. It’s important to me that you know that we are worth the time it takes to learn how to enjoy this life outside of making art. It’s also important to me that you know that we make art because it is essential to the way we look at this world. Storytelling is a part of our DNA. We bring our pain and our fears and our joy and our laughter and our tears to everything we have ever done, and somehow we keep making it more beautiful, undeterred by the heaviest pieces of our baggage. Problems become lighter when we ask for help and lift with our knees.

When we look in the mirror we should work harder to love what we see, because the person looking back at us is a reflection of the world she’s built: she supports, she sustains, she builds, she nurtures, she parties, she grows weak, she mourns, she rebuilds strength, she adapts… She blooms.

Happy birthday, Homie.

See you next year. Same time, same place?

Make this one count.

I believe in you,


Sue Goberdhan is an Edmonton performer, arts administrator, advocate, playwright, and educator. Sue has dedicated her career to advocating for the revitalization of the foundation of Edmonton’s theatre community to include and celebrate the stories and voices of people from marginalized communities.

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