H-P Woodlawn Secondary School: Exit, Pursued By A Bear


Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, United States. Photographed by Yathin S Krishnappa

Eleanor Shaw

Bears, marriage, penguins, and Jimmy Carter. All of these seemingly unrelated things are hung in a delicate balance in H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program’s production of Exit, Pursued By a Bear. This play, written by Lauren Gunderson, was specifically chosen by the show’s director, Carly Cameron. This is because it was, most notably, a show about a resilient woman who perseveres through hardships created by another fellow woman. As this implies, the production did not shy away from difficult-to-discuss topics, such as domestic abuse. However, the cast and crew handled these themes with grace and maturity.

The production begins with a series of projections (crafted by Mary Katherine Musick), setting the stage, serving as a prologue, and preparing the audience for the journey they are about to take. This feature proves to be extremely useful as characters reference back to what the audience had previously seen, taking full advantage of the limitations placed upon the crew in the black box theater. Lighting (courtesy of Collin Davis) is used to further enhance this environment by masterfully communicating space and time. With the help of the stage manager, Camila Anderson, these diverse elements were seamlessly blended together, providing a platform on which the actors could perform at their best.

As previously mentioned, Exit, Pursued By a Bear is not afraid of delving into complex and mature topics. However, the main ensemble took this challenge head on, and proved victorious. Rebecca Walyus brought Nan, our titular character, to life, skillfully portraying the arcs Nan must go through before fully being ready to move on from the violent relationship in which the character is trapped. On the other end of this disastrous marriage is Daniel Gessel, playing Nan’s husband, Kyle. These actors’ chemistry shines through this pair. The two convincingly portray their characters dancing a disastrous tango, Nan fighting, pulling away, and Kyle desperately pulling back.

Overall, this production provides the audience with a moving, inspiring experience. Together, spectators receive insight on the hardships of abuse, and how our real family and friends may come from unexpected places. In this play, Nan is allied by friends, such as the “democrat and snob” Simon and the mysterious Sweetheart, reminding us no one has to be isolated in our struggles.