EDGY THEATRE CONTENT SPARKS OFF-STAGE DEBATE ABOUT TRIGGER WARNINGS

New audience advisories warn of specific plot points that could trigger emotional trauma

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Western Canada Theatre's staging of Corey Payette's Children of God earlier this spring came with a trigger warning about the musical's storyline (David Cooper/Western Canada Theatre/Citadel Theatre)

If you want to trigger a strong response from theatre folk, ask them how they feel about trigger warnings: The debate about if and when to use them has the theatre community deeply divided.

These new type of audience advisories warn of specific plot points that may provoke psychological trauma in some audience members.

But some theatre professionals worry these warnings strip theatre of its power to provoke an emotional reaction and are a form of self-censorship.

James MacDonald, artistic director of Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, B.C., is in favour of using trigger warnings where the material justifies it.

“I think if we inform the audience beforehand, and they’re not blindsided by it, then they don’t have a negative reaction to it,” MacDonald said from Gananoque, Ont., where he was rehearsing a new play.

‘They felt like they were blindsided’

MacDonald realized a need for trigger warnings after his company staged a play that featured a scene of a daughter being sexually abused by her father.

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