This March, Hart House Theatre presents Kat Sandler’s Retreat, a satirical look into the lives of four recent college graduates entering the workforce and battling it out for one coveted internship. The ninety-minute production is non-stop action and dark comedy, illustrating the experiences young adults face when maneuvering the real world for the first time. The Medium sat down with director Claire Burns and actor Tony Tran to discuss rehearsing for the show and reflecting the classic millennial struggle onstage.
Coming back to Hart House Theatre for her third production, only this time as a director, Burns has enjoyed working with familiar staff members but also feels the weight of her new role. “Working on the project as a director is different in terms of timeline – I’ve gotten to be in the building and around the campus again for a longer period of time. Also, the stage is bigger—the Hart House stage has always been big—but to conceive of it from the outside as opposed to being inside and moved around as an actor, it’s a different job,” she says.
For Tran, Retreat is his debut performance at Hart House and he is hoping to portray his character Paul as honestly as he can. As one of the candidates vying for the job, Tran’s character is “your office guy, hunched over a keyboard, working as hard as he can and journeying through all his quirks. He thinks he’s a super smart guy. He uses his intellect as kind of a weapon—if he’s not strong, at least he’s smart enough so that’s why he should get the job. He’s a pen over the sword kind of shenanigan,” he says.
As a millennial himself, Tran relates to the characters’ challenges and mentality in terms of finding a job. “The idea that any millennial who doesn’t work a lot, like doing ten different jobs at a time, isn’t working enough. If you’re not dying, starving yourself, or sweating from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m., then you’re not a hard worker. And if you’re not a hard worker, then why should you deserve this job?”
Burns graduated from university ten years ago and has been building her name and body of work ever since. Working in a creative industry specifically has posed its unique challenges as well. She says, “As an artist, you’re often competing, even though I don’t want to think of it as competing because everyone has their own form that they’re doing and every artist is individual, but you’re often putting in a lot of time that doesn’t get financially rewarded. I feel that and I feel that for these characters too—we’re all just trying to make it.”
Retreat promises to deliver a non-stop narrative with a quick pace reflective of the competitive employment market, especially for young adults. The one act play should feel like a ride that straps you in and accelerates from there—much like real life. Tran says, “It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s an action movie onstage. I think the fast-pace speaks to the nature of millennials and how fast we’re working but also speaks to the rhythm that Claire is going for. The energy keeps going and going—there’s no time to breathe and stop in this environment.”
Burns concludes, “you know how they say, art imitates life or art holds a mirror up to life—this should do that but to an extent. I just hope this gives people opportunity for pause to think, maybe I don’t need to be doing ten projects at once or maybe the job isn’t everything.”
Retreat will run at Hart House Theatre from March 1st to 9th.