Interview: Chosen Family and The Adoption

The Adoption. Photo Emelia Hellman. The Adoption. Photo Emelia Hellman.

Family is such a key component of identity that for those whose biological family is rejecting, abusive, absent, or for any reason unavailable, a chosen family often becomes the most important connections one has. But just like any human relationship, chosen families are not static and subject to outside forces that destabilize the bonds between members. The Adoption, playing at the Montreal Fringe Festival looks at how a chosen family is affected when one family member chooses to adopt the child of another friend who passed away.

“It’s really about acceptance and love,” says Sarah Swinwood, the show’s dramaturge. “A., BFF, and Fae are three best friends who are very different, but who all grew up in an environment of rejection. They are each other’s chosen family. A. has made this decision to adopt and BFF and Fae are resisting it in their own ways. Their memory of family is rejection. Change represents trauma. But A. has made an adult decision and an adult move and is not going to budge.”

While the subject matter is serious, the play is a comedy and a lot of the humour comes from the personalities of the characters and how they clash. Swinwood explains, “Fae is new-agey, a ball of sunshine, into astrology and vision quests and psychic energy and behind that is the fear of the unknown. Fae is ready to meet the Dali Llama, go to a rainbow gathering, or go to grocery store. BFF is really boisterous and fun, the classic gay friend who loves to party, very sarcastic and dry. BFF gets annoyed with Fae’s sunshine-iness. A. is the anchor, and accepting of both of them.”

While they are all distinct, Swinwood points out that they are also very familiar. “We all have an element of each of them in us.”

The show also is about transgender rights. A. is trans and so the show addresses the concept and meaning of family in a post-acceptance world. Members of the cast are queer, and the Adoption’s playwright and director Maël F. Cheff is transgender. Swinwood says, “Maël understands how this production makes people feel seen. It not only helps trans and LGBTQ people feel accepted, but also educates people who don’t know anything about it by allowing them to reflect on the human condition. Who doesn’t want to feel accepted and welcome? And many people have had to choose a family outside their birth families. It’s a good way to bring into the conversation that LGBTQ rights are human rights.”

Swinwood further says, “The show also has a ‘new’ style of family. The concept of family is changing and the circumstances surrounding that. How can we raise a child in a way that is accepting and let them be who they are?”

The cast for the show also includes queer-identifying comedians and members of the cast should be familiar to fans of Montreal’s improv and comedy scenes. Eve Parker Finley who plays A. is an established TikToker/Instagram Content Creator/musician. Amanda McQueen is a stand up comedian and improv comic who has had shows at Off JFL and other festivals, as well as had appearances on CBC. Nicky Fournier is also an actor and improv comedian. Among other things, cast members have been involved in Ladyfest, the Fringe Festival, and JFL.

Finally, The Adoption is much more than just comedy. “There’s a lot of tenderness and intimacy that the audience sees between these three friends,” says Swinwood. “It’s a window into their world.”

Swinwood says, “I would suggest that people look for themselves in each character, to find what the characters are doing that reflects what they’ve done, also to contemplate where we reject ourselves or others.”

Swinwood concludes that the show “trusts the audience’s intelligence to read between the lines and see beyond the jokes. Comedy and humour are ways of deflecting from pain and distracting from grief, as well as to look at deeper truths. Laughter opens our hearts. Once your heart is open, that’s when we can also cry. “

The Adoption wrapped up its last show but keep an eye out for Maël F. Cheff, Eve Parker Finley, Nicky Fournier, and Amanda McQueen at Just for Laughs and comedy events around the city. The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is on now, with shows beginning on June 9 and continuing until June 19. For information about tickets and shows, click HERE.

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