We are in a critical moment in our society’s relationship to social and political conflict. Public debate about contentious issues is increasingly polarized, inflammatory, ideological and shame-based. Working with the idea of nurturance, An Awkward and Embarrassing Conversation invites self-identified groups (social, work, political, recreational) to investigate the assumptions that bind them together, and to ask questions and confront internalized taboos that may normally feel too risky to raise.

Sarah Garton Stanley is the Associate Artistic Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre and Marcus Youssef is one of Canada’s leading contemporary playwrights. An Awkward and Embarrassing Conversation is part performance and part participatory workshop.

  • In Part 1, Marcus and Sarah employ a series of rules they have devised to encourage honest, risk-embracing dialogue about difficult subject matter, topics each fears might get them “voted off the island.” They use these rules to help interrogate each other publicly, rigorously and lovingly about their own struggles in relationship to issues of power, privilege and difference.
  • In Part 2, Sarah and Marcus offer participants who are interested a guided series of exercises designed to question and experiment with these rules, in relationship to the group’s self-identified interests and goals. Throughout, Marcus and Sarah foster an environment in which there is permission to be vulnerable and make mistakes, and highlight the critical importance of honesty and trust in fostering authentic inclusion and meaningful change.

An Awkward and Embarassing Conversation seeks to embrace the productive value of difference, building deeper, more honest connections and a more resilient and nurturing culture.

“We associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid like fear, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love. When we dare to drop the armour that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” –an audience member’s experience reminded them of this quote from Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability

An Awkward and Embarrassing Conversation. Created and Facilitated by Sarah Garton Stanley and Marcus Youssef. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. In Development.

Produced by Neworld Theatre. Developed with the support of Farnham Maltings and Volcano Theatre.


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