Margaret Muriel speaks volumes with new digital theatre piece

Halifax filmmaker's digital theatre piece streams on Vimeo through June 20.

Launched at the 2021 Stages Theatre Festival earlier this month, Halifax filmmaker Margaret Muriel makes her digital theatrical piece Quietly available for new audiences through June 20.

In this Q&A with the filmmaker, we find out more about her solo creation conceived in
the midst of the lockdown.

This interview has been edited.

Tell us about Quietly, what is it about?

Quietly is a digital piece about being a child, young adult, and then woman, growing up and living in a world rife with misogyny.

It is a story about a woman searching for a place in a world that seems to be built only for cis-men, and the escalation of abuse and silencing happens, sometimes without one even noticing it.

It is about what happened to me when I realized that I deserve respect and how my whole world changed, not necessarily for the better, when I started speaking up.

What inspired you to make the film?

About 12 years ago, I did Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and developed the practice of doing three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every morning.

This practice stuck, and at the end of my Master’s degree two years ago, I looked at the culmination of writing I had done, which spanned two degrees and ten years of working as a freelance artist, and I knew I was ready to use them for something.

At the same time, I was coming to a new realization about misogyny and its role in my life. Perhaps it was getting older and not needing the approval of men so desperately that opened my eyes to the more insidious ways sexism was or is present in my life.

Then last year, as I sat in my living room day after day during lockdown watching the news, seeing more women murdered and abused and oppressed, I knew I had to add my voice to the conversation.

Quietly was born in the bathtub early one lockdown morning as I wrote the words, “These days I only feel safe in the bathtub and even then I’m scared I’ll drown.”

Why this film now?

Misogyny is everywhere. I don’t go a day, not a single day, without experiencing some form of it. Sometimes it’s ‘small’ like when someone repeats my joke louder or to a broader audience and claims it as their own. Sometimes it’s larger, like a director not hiring me so he can hire a problematic man instead. Sometimes it is much worse than either of those things, and sometimes it’s smaller, but every drop in the bucket counts. It is accumulative.

I think because we’ve had this huge cathartic couple of years, we sometimes think we’re done with it like Misogyny is a problem for the past. But it’s every day everywhere. Everyone, regardless of gender, is forced into a mould by society that makes it extremely difficult for us to see our own behaviour.

I needed to add my voice to the conversation right now, to say we’re not done, we have a lot of work to do, and it starts with everyone looking at themselves. So I hope Quietly shows some of these behaviours for what they are.

What is the significance of the title?

Quietly is the way people who are not cis men are asked to do everything. Even yell. It is also deeply personal.

I have been told to shut up so many times in my life in so many different ways. Sometimes it feels like cis men go to some special class and learn how to tell other people not to speak their piece in the most manipulative ways possible, but I know that’s not true. I know cis men are taught that subconsciously, in a million different ways, and it is an incredibly difficult task to battle with one’s subconscious. But. That’s what I’m asking of the cis-men in my life, and that is the work to be done by cis-men at large. That is also work that needs to be done by all white people right now, as in immediately.

What was the biggest challenge in creating Quietly?

Quietly came with many stages of challenge. The most difficult and rewarding part was going through 50+ notebooks I’ve kept over the years, searching through them for misogyny. Surprise, surprise, it was everywhere. I didn’t see things as misogyny at the time, especially in the early days of my writing, around 2010.

It was mind-boggling to see how much casual sexism I missed. I always felt something was off, but I assumed it was me that was off. This collective cover-up led directly to my accepting worse and worse behaviour from people.

That realization was hard, and it was hard to move past that realization to create some kind of story and narrative and piece accessible to people. So really, for a while, I just wanted to drown in it all. But I knew I wouldn’t – I’ve been through enough to know myself – and eventually, I moved through that phase and was able to forgive myself a bit for not knowing better, and I think, create something that has some universality to it.

Why should someone tune in to watch Quietly?

I hope seeing this film will help some people who have had similar experiences feel seen. I hope seeing this film will help some people who do not understand see more clearly.  This is my first digital offering, but it won’t be my last.

Quietly is available on Vimeo through June 20. Visit eventbrite.ca for tickets and information.

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