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Playwright and professor writes provocative play, Pink Sugar

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Associate Professor Natalie Meisner's inspiration for an essay that later evolved into the one-act play, Pink Sugar: A dark tale of love, betrayal and stolen body parts.

With what appeared to be a rather blank slate — the image of a nondescript posting in a flat, desolate field of green — Associate Professor Natalie Meisner from Mount Royal’s department of English, drew her inspiration for an essay that would later evolve into the one-act play, Pink Sugar: A dark tale of love, betrayal and stolen body parts.

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 Pink Sugar: A dark tale of love, betrayal and stolen body parts.

The tragic-comedy sold out its last shows during its Sept. 25 – 29 run with Theatre Basement at Theatre Junction Grand’s Studio Space.

Meisner used that original image and unraveled the thought of a westerner stranded in Europe and waking up in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how they got there or where to go, to bring her play to life.

“He woke up, he didn’t know where he was and he had lost all of his stuff,” explains Meisner, “It wasn’t just all of his physical stuff … he had had his kidney taken away from him.”

This original monologue eventually evolved into five monologues that would later become Pink Sugar.

The layers of Pink Sugar shed a light on the world of organ trafficking, and beyond. This provocative play also speaks to human trafficking and the moral ambiguities that surround who benefits and who suffers from such taboo.

“It’s dealing with ethical choices about your own life and ethical choices surrounding other people’s lives,” says Meisner.

Going deeper into the dark side of theatre

Meisner had to conduct research on the topic at first, thinking that the idea of walking up without your kidney was the work of an urban legend.

“I started reading all this stuff by Nancy Scheper-Hughes who’s from an organization called Organ Watch and she actually says this is documented and happening in 27 different countries … it’s actually a really huge problem.”

In Meisner’s Pink Sugar, “Spencer, a young Canadian man, is given a trip to Europe for graduation where he meets a young woman, Elan, and falls for her. Through an unfortunate series of events he ends up losing a kidney instead.”

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 Pink Sugar: A dark tale of love, betrayal and stolen body parts.

Adding a pinch of humour

The depth and horror, if you will, and the raw human emotion that comes with it doesn’t stop there.

For such heavy topics, Meisner also uses black comedy — a form of comedy in which serious issues are treated humourously — to disarm her audiences.

“That’s why I need the comedy,” she says. “That kind of collision of black comedy with the serious content can be very affecting and you can have huge reactions to it as well … I believe humour opens doors. If you can get people to laugh, they suspend their disbeliefs and engage in a more human way with the stories.”

The sharp twists and turns Meisner put the audiences of Pink Sugar through worked best for live theatre. In her experience, the reactions her play evoked were far greater than any lecture or movie could.

Meisner is now putting some finishing touches on Pink Sugar and works to complete some other plays that also have very polarizing and serious subject matters. She hopes her writing will open minds and point to the absurdity of political issues going on around the world.

Meisner believes, “Sometimes to get through the more horrific stuff, you need to be able to laugh.”

— Fred Cheney, Oct. 25, 2012