Eva Hamburg has a phobia of bears. So, when the Australian director found out she was flying to Whitehorse to direct the Guild’s current show, God of Carnage, she was “terrified.”
“I even started having bear dreams,” she said.
A month later, Hamburg has stood less than 20 metres from a grizzly and is sold on the Yukon.
“It’s actually a lot like Australia,” she said.
“Only where we live it’s 40 degrees plus, not 40 below.”
Hamburg and the Guild’s current artistic director Katherine McCallum worked together on a show in Australia years back. And we “jelled,” said Hamburg.
That show went on to win awards in Edinburgh before heading to London, then off-Broadway, in New York.
Over the years, Hamburg and McCallum kept in touch. “And we often talked about working together again,” said Hamburg.
Now, as the Guild’s artistic director, McCallum was finally able to make it happen. “There’s a little bit of friendly nepotism there,” said Hamburg. “But hopefully she also trusts in my skills to direct.”
As a drama coach and director in Australia, Hamburg loves helping actors explore issues and struggle through them.
“It’s easier for me to help other actors, rather than myself, with anxieties and character work,” she said.
But coming to Canada to direct a production posed a whole new challenge.
“I didn’t want to struggle with cultural issues, in the production,” said Hamburg.
That’s why she picked a comedy.
“Humour is universal,” she said.
Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, God of Carnage is a satire, she said. “It’s a comedy of manners that pokes fun at our social mores.”
Sparked by a playground fight between two children that involves a lost tooth, God of Carnage starts off as a civil meeting between the parents who hope to resolve the dispute cordially.
But rum gets involved and the parents soon end up acting more like their children.
“We are highly defensive of our children,” said Hamburg, who is in the territory with her husband and three-year-old.
The gist of the play “is to not to take ourselves so seriously,” she said.
Under all this civility and pretense, there are these real personalities that start to emerge, said Hamburg. “It’s important to shatter these veneers sometimes and remember that we are all human.
“And when we fall from grace, it isn’t always such a bad thing.”
God of Carnage gave Hamburg lots of room to play, which was the point.
And it translated well across cultures, she said.
But really, Yukoners and Australians aren’t that different, said Hamburg. “You say ‘couch,’ and we say ‘lounge,’” she added with a laugh.
“But beyond that it feels so familiar, and I feel so at home here.”
Fall temperatures in Whitehorse are the same as winter temperatures in Hamburg’s hometown. “So I can cope,” she said. “But if it got much colder, it would be a little scary.”
There’s wilderness in Australia too. But the way Whitehorse “meets its wilderness immediately,” captured Hamburg’s heart.
“It’s such a beautiful thing,” she said.
“It truly is the last frontier and it’s so stunningly in your face.”
Hamburg is staying for a few more days, to let the show “settle in,” then she and her family are heading to Vancouver and Niagara Falls before catching a long flight home.
Hamburg will be heading back refreshed, thanks to her experience working with aspiring Yukon actors.
Compared to the professionals she often directs, community actors carry enthusiasm and a desire to improve. “There’s a sense of genuine interest in what they’re doing, which is refreshing,” she said.
God of Carnage previews tonight; tickets are $5. It opens Thursday, September 22 and runs Wednesday through Saturday until October 8. It’s pay-what-you-can on Wednesday, September 28.
Tickets are $20 on Wednesday and Thursday and
$22 on Friday and Saturday and are available at the door and at Whitehorse Motors on 4th and Wheeler.
The shows start at 8 p.m.
Contact Genesee Keevil at