When I first read this page-turner, my heart was pounding.
I attributed that to compelling storytelling, the need to know what happens next. But I became aware of the same sensation while I worked on the adaptation and again while working with the actors in rehearsal. Even though I knew what happened, my heart would thump. What causes our hearts to pound? Excitement. Nervousness. Fear. Elation. Pinpointing those moments in the story and figuring out how to effectively bring them to life on stage was no simple task.
A flurry of questions arose during our rehearsal process regarding our responsibility as global citizens: How far would we go to help someone not of our culture? Whose lives have value? Who are we to tell someone they do not belong? We spent time exploring how we balance our compassion with self-protection, our pragmatism with our idealism—how we rationalize our selfishness and excuse our ignorance and our naiveté. Chris Cleave refers to the “mutual incomprehension” between developing and developed countries. Little Bee seeks a common language and earns her right to a safe, joyful life; Sarah feels guilt and responsibility for how to make things right.
I wanted to investigate this story, with its unique double narrative, precisely because of how Little Bee and Sarah navigate their way past their fear on a planet that seems to reward fearmongering and male dominance. These women possess a naturally strong capacity to turn atrocity into beauty and help us see how empowering women across the globe can lead to peace.
The broader story of immigration, refugees and asylum seekers is huge and complicated. The statistics are mind-numbing regarding the numbers of men, women and children who are caught seeking a safe life, and then are essentially arrested, treated like criminals and deported to the place from which they were seeking refuge.
This is not an easy story to tell. But we are so lucky that Little Bee helps tell it. Her voice inspires with its strength and resolve. Her innate sense of humor and candor is winsome. It turns out my heart’s pounding is my profound gratitude to be here doing what I love to do: telling an important story and sharing it with as many people as possible, in the hope that together we can make a difference in our developing world.
Adapter & Director
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