The Empire

By Susanna Fournier
Afterword by ted witzel, Leora Morris, and Alison Wong

The Empire
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Explore a world on the edge of change through three epic stories spanning five hundred years of imagined history, unpacking systems of power and what we are capable of in the pursuit of freedom.

The story starts in The Philosopher’s Wife. Deep in the North, a philosopher exiled ... Read more


Overview

Explore a world on the edge of change through three epic stories spanning five hundred years of imagined history, unpacking systems of power and what we are capable of in the pursuit of freedom.

The story starts in The Philosopher’s Wife. Deep in the North, a philosopher exiled for promoting his atheist work amidst a bloody religious war yearns to ignite a revolution, but his personal life has collapsed into chaos. What begins as a desperate attempt to cure his wife’s animalistic behaviour erupts into a power struggle between the sexes, unleashing violent reckonings while the world outside hurtles towards an epoch-changing revolution.

Over twenty years later, The Scavenger’s Daughter examines the true face of empire as Northern forces continue to march against the South, “liberating” all who stand in their way. In a landscape blown apart by war, we follow Jack and Ash, orphan soldiers belonging to the Black Swan army, trying to survive the camp, toxic masculinity, and each other until they can be free. When Jack returns to camp, his freedom having been bought for him by a mysterious philosopher, he believes his new life is just around the corner. But as rations wear thin and the king seizes the opium trails, the camp is thrown into chaos, putting everything Jack and Ash have known—including Jack’s first love, Sarah—at risk.

Centuries later, in Four Sisters, we meet Sarah again as a woman and former Madam who has survived death, the toppling of regimes, and centuries of war. When a mysterious plague breaks out, she is forced to relocate to a quarantined zone called “The Skirts” with four young girls who were orphaned by the women she once employed. But when a strange doctor arrives and discovers the girls are plague-positive, Sarah must decide whether to go ahead with an experimental treatment or none at all. As time itself begins to erode, this found family of women must face loss, love, and their individual struggles for power in a violent world.

For fans of Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Mists of Avalon, The Empire is both foreign and shockingly familiar, leaving you asking, how did we get here, and where are we going?

Susanna Fournier

Susanna Fournier is an award-winning writer, theatre maker, actor, and educator based in Toronto. She is most known for writing texts for live performance, visioning interdisciplinary productions, and that gig she had in that X-Men movie. She is the artistic producer of PARADIGM productions, an indie company she started in 2013 to produce rowdy, joyous, contentious, and “impossible” theatrical works. Her work has played in Toronto, Dublin, London, Berlin, and Munich, and is known for its formal experimentation and wild spirit. She is currently the playwright-in-residence at Canadian Stage.

ted witzel

ted witzel (he/him) is a queer theatremaker and arts leader based (sort of) in toronto. he has worked in theatres in vancouver, montreal, stratford, ottawa, london, berlin, milan, palermo, stuttgart, ingolstadt, baden-baden, and bad hersfeld. he and susie have done a lot of strange things for art together, many of them naked. www.thisisnttaedon.com.

Leora Morris

Leora Morris is a director/creator who splits her time between Canada and the USA. She has collaborated with artists and theatres across North America, including the Public Theater, Coal Mine Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Alliance Theatre, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Olney Theatre Center, Small Wooden Shoe, Dancemakers, Volcano, Theatre Aquarius, Tarragon Theatre, Canadian Stage, and Nightswimming. Leora received her M.F.A. in Directing at the Yale School of Drama, where she served as co-artistic director of Yale Cabaret. In 2020, Leora was shortlisted for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts prize. She loved the decade she spent collaborating on The Empire with Susanna. www.leoramorris.com.

Alison Wong

Alison Wong  is a director, producer, and performance maker born in Hong Kong and now based in Treaty 13 territory, also known as Toronto. A graduate of York University and Canadian Stage’s M.F.A. in directing, her work in opera and theatre—with a focus on transnational and plurilingual storytelling—has taken her across Turtle Island (Canada and the United States), to Italy, India, and the Netherlands. As an independent creative producer, she thrives on building world premiere productions of new performance works. She has also produced with b current, Small Wooden Shoe, Theatre Direct and WeeFestival, SummerWorks Performance Festival, and Luminato.

Excerpt

Days pass and Tereza and The Wife spend every morning running, training, and playing with the dogs.

Thomas sits in many more chairs and begins to learn the alphabet. The Philosopher writes letters and helps Thomas with his studies. From their window, the two men sometimes catch the women running laps around the house.

One afternoon The Philosopher calls Tereza in for the progress report. Thomas is repeating his letters out loud in the corner.

PHILOSOPHER: But she can’t always be running.

TEREZA: How long have the dogs been left loose like that in the barn?

PHILOSOPHER: Like what?

THOMAS: A B C D

TEREZA: Unattended. It’s good for her to run, dispels the nervous energy.

THOMAS: E F G

PHILOSOPHER: But she can’t spend the rest of her life running with a bunch of wild dogs because she’s nervous.

TEREZA: Who would know how long they’ve been like that.

PHILOSOPHER: The grounds men used to tend them.

TEREZA: What does that mean, “tend” them

THOMAS: J M? J L? K

PHILOSOPHER: Fed them, housed them, whatever it is, there were larger concerns, my wife was ill.

THOMAS: N

TEREZA: There’s been a lot of fighting, one was injured badly and may not survive. There’s a litter on the way, I almost couldn’t get in because of how territorial they’ve become. I don’t want to offend you. But. It’s—

THOMAS: L O P

TEREZA: I’ve never. It’s…very

THOMAS: y? y? Y?

PHILOSOPHER: What are you saying?

THOMAS: Y? y? .  .  .  y .  .  .  ?

TEREZA: YES Y, do that in your head—I’m saying it’s bad. I’ve had to crate them. It’s going to take daily work to retrain them.

PHILOSOPHER: There were larger concerns.

TEREZA: Right. Well, what’s done is done. I’ll have to work with them everyday to get them back on track. She’s very good with them, we practice simple commands, walking—

PHILOSOPHER: She knows how to walk.

TEREZA: Well the dogs don’t.

PHILOSOPHER: Does she ever speak of me?

TEREZA: She hardly speaks at all.

PHILOSOPHER: We shall teach her to ride.

TEREZA: I don’t know anything about horses.

PHILOSOPHER: Let’s put her back in her rooms.

TEREZA: I don’t think she’s ready for that at all.

PHILOSOPHER: I’d prefer she not sleep in a pit.

TEREZA: She knows her bed of straw, it smells a certain way.

PHILOSOPHER: It smells awful.

TEREZA: It’s just good for her to sleep alone.

PHILOSOPHER: She does sleep alone.

TEREZA: Because she can get very .  .  .  anxious.

PHILOSOPHER: As you keep saying.

TEREZA: Ok, it’s just, it would—be—uh—really, uh, bad for her to get pregnant now—I just need to know you understand that—I’m sorry.

PHILOSOPHER: Considering you’re the only person whose neck she doesn’t try to rip to shreds, I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

TEREZA: I just worry she might .  .  .  approach you—which is fine, as long as you know, that I think she should not be preg—

PHILOSOPHER: YES I get it.

Awkward silence because well .  .  .  everybody gets it.

Thomas is excelling in his studies. He’s a very good student.

THOMAS: Thank you sir.

PHILOSOPHER: With some basic learning you could make something of yourself.

TEREZA: You really shouldn’t bother yourself.

PHILOSOPHER: It’s just the alphabet. You know the alphabet.

TEREZA: But I learnt from a priest.

PHILOSOPHER: I can assure you the letters are the same.

TEREZA: We’re not atheists.

PHILOSOPHER: So what are you?

TEREZA: I’d rather not discuss our faith.

PHILOSOPHER: This isn’t the South Tereza, I’m not gonna burn you at the stake depending how you answer.

TEREZA: I appreciate that. We’re still not atheists.

Tereza exits.

The Philosopher turns to Thomas.

PHILOSOPHER: Tereza’s a bit .  .  .

He makes a sound to describe her demeanour.

.  .  .  isn’t she?

THOMAS: .  .  .  Yeah.

PHILOSOPHER: She always like that?

THOMAS: Yeah.

Reviews

"The Philosopher’s Wife is a dark, violent and intellectually rigorous medieval version of Pygmalion, geared for the modern age. "

"Four Sisters’ diversions and beauty never detract from the protestations at its heart. This is a plea against the ghettoization of the poor or otherwise marginalized, against the systematic devaluation of those who aren’t deemed prized contributors to a distinctly patriarchal brand of advanced capitalism. "

“Fournier has tortured history .  .  .  She’s compressed wars of conquest, religious wars, colonial wars and wars on terror into a single fictional war that alludes to them all. ”

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