Inside a cavernous room at Main and 2nd, Twenty Something Theatre is getting ready for its upcoming world premiere of Sean Minogue’s Us & Everything We Own. As the actors rehearse the opening scene that sets the stage for a modern tale about a young couple drifting apart while struggling to find fulfilling careers and buy a house in Vancouver, late-afternoon light pours in, diffused through an old glass sign above the back warehouse door that reads “Save Our Soul Mission”.
As signs go, it’s a fitting one.
Particularly on a day like today, when rehearsal has been interrupted by forgotten lines, prop mishaps, and a deafeningly loud air vent that forces the actors to shout. Suddenly, all the change in someone’s pocket spills out across the floor, each coin landing louder than the next. Everyone bursts out laughing, including playwright Minogue, who shakes his fist in mock anger, shouting “Why are you all ruining my play?!”
Everyone’s a little punchy. They’re in the last hour of rehearsal for the day, and opening night is looming. Today, Minogue delivered his second script revision in as many weeks, which is exactly how long he’s been back in his beloved Vancouver, after relocating to Toronto for a year. Us & Everything We Own tackles some of the issues that eventually forced Minogue to make the move back east.
“Vancouver and Toronto are dealing with similar issues that inform the context of this play—Vancouver just seems to be a more extreme example,” Minogue says wryly. “But there’s so much to love about this city, and when you love it so much, you want it to do better.”
To wit, Us & Everything We Own centres around the conflict between a couple in their late 20s in Vancouver. Originally, Minogue says, he just wanted to craft something that echoed the structure of the indie film Blue Valentine, which details with unflinching honesty how a couple grows apart. But he found himself writing in circles until he anchored his characters’ conflict in Vancouver, where opportunity—in career development, industry, housing—seems finite. For his lead character, and by extension himself, Minogue says it’s generational, this feeling that it’s impossible to get ahead, that “a ladder’s been kicked out after everyone else has gone up it.”
“Young people haven’t taken control of the narrative of their own generation,” Minogue says. “We’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by broad, sweeping editorials, and the Harper government, and people saying we need more welders than artists….We haven’t had our Network moment to fight back. I don’t mean in an aggressive, blowing-up-a-pipeline way, but making a play that says we care about this stuff. Going to see a play that says we care about this stuff. It’s important that we activate that voice.”
But Minogue says he doesn’t have any Girls-like aspirations to be the voice of a generation. In writing Us & Everything We Own, the 31-year-old author simply wanted to reflect his reality: the funny, frustrating, and intriguing world of trying to make ends meet in a meaningful way in Vancouver. And of the boomer ideals of marriage, baby, house, Minogue says the home-ownership piece seems to be the remaining “traditional” goal for his generation.
“I don’t think we know what the most important goals are, other than this vague sense of ‘I just want to feel meaningful.’ So that could be coming through doing a play like this. I’ve been waiting two years to feel meaningful in this way. That sounds really sad,” Minogue says, laughing, “but this is the kind of thing that I feel, when I go home at night and go to bed—I’m making a difference in a really small way, I’m engaging the culture around me. I feel like that’s what I was born to do.”
Us & Everything We Own runs from Friday (April 5) to April 13 at the PAL Studio Theatre.