Local doctor Gabor Maté is used to public speaking; he’s given hundreds of talks around the globe on addiction, stress, and childhood development, among other topics. He’s not one to get nervous before an appearance, but his latest gig is something altogether different. Maté is playing himself in a new multidisciplinary production by writer, actor, director, and therapist Rita Bozi.
The Damage Is Done: A True Story combines theatre, dialogue, essay, video, music, and modern dance to explore subjects such as depression, addiction, and suicide. Maté and Bozi, coartistic director of Productive Obsession, draw on traumatic experiences from their own childhoods to look at how healing came about: Maté was an infant living in Budapest when the Nazis invaded; Bozi’s family participated in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
“As a result of the historical trauma, there was family trauma,” Maté explains. “When Rita wrote this production, she found herself talking to me in her mind, so she thought why not just talk to me in the play itself? That’s how I ended up in it.”
Maté is the author of several books, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction and When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. He has participated in talkback sessions for other theatre productions, such as T J Dawe’s Medicine, which was about a retreat led by Maté that the playwright attended.
“This time, the talkback is an integral part of the performance,” Maté says.
Written and directed by Bozi in collaboration with Ken Cameron and using insights by Maté, The Damage Is Done runs at the Historic Theatre at the Cultch from October 20 to 24.
“If I’m on-stage to give a talk to 1,000 people, I never get nervous, but this time, when I’m portraying myself, I’m nervous,” Maté says with a laugh. “What’s that about? There’s a performance anxiety. Can I be myself naturally in a production? It’s a ridiculous question.
“Primarily, I hope people are entertained, that they’re engaged,” he adds of the play. “Secondly, I hope they can recognize themselves and learn something about themselves.”