Art

These gorgeous photos peek inside Canadian teens’ super-cool bedrooms

These gorgeous photos peek inside Canadian teens’ super-cool bedrooms

Breakfast Club and Harry Potter posters hanging side by side, an empty beer bottle tucked away near stuffed animals, beds covered in rumpled linens—the photos in This is my room. Look. glimpse into the private lives of teenagers. Not just any teens: they’re the cast of Concord Floral, a drama by Governor General Award–winning playwright Jordan Tannahill, which opens this week at Canadian Stage. The play, which is based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century novellas, The Decameron, and named after a once-abandoned, now-demolished greenhouse in Vaughan, tells the story of how 10 teenagers escape a plague they unwittingly caused themselves.

During its premiere production in 2014, co-director and artist Erin Brubacher travelled across the GTA to photograph the actors in their bedrooms. Using a Rolleiflex medium-format camera and only natural light, Brubacher had the actors frame each shot themselves, offering a sense of freedom that’s also central to the play. “Concord Floral gives space and time to these teenage bodies and voices. It gives them an opportunity to be seen on their own terms,” says Brubacher. The name for the series, This is my room. Look., also came from the actors. “When I visited their rooms, they would all say with a sort of pride, ‘This is my room,’ or, ‘This is my half of the room.’ It’s a pride of space that fades as we grow older and feel entitled to more space. We don’t say, ‘Oh, come see my room.’” Yet like braces, high school or home-dyed hair, teenage bedrooms are temporary. Since Brubacher took these portraits, in both 2014 and earlier this year in Ottawa and Calgary, some actors have moved out, into dorms or apartments with roommates.

The exhibition runs alongside the current production of Concord Floral, on now until October 16 at the Bluma Appel Theatre. We asked five cast members to show us around their rooms.

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Micaela Robertson, 19

Leslieville

Who do you play in Concord Floral?
I play the Couch—a person with an unusual alter-ego, not a set piece. She is a funny, critically thinking poet, and a recent high school grad.

Who do you live with?
I live with many people: My fiery haired, behaviour-analyst mum; my dear ‘drives his daughter to rehearsal when she’s just too tired to take transit’ dad; and my younger, taller siblings, Martha and Sam. An almost full house, with the exception of my elder, independent brother Aidan.

What’s your bedroom like?
I share my bedroom with my sister and it looks so. None of the posters make sense beside each other—they look as different to each other as my sister and I do. It’s always messy, covered in art supplies and school work, books and clothes—everywhere, clothes.

What’s your favourite thing in your room?
I have a stack of all of my scripts from age seven onwards. The collection includes three productions’ worth of various Concord Floral drafts (from the Theatre Centre, National Arts Centre and the newest edition from Canadian Stage). They’re a good trophy. They sit on my dresser, which is my favourite part of the house because it’s all mine.

What’s the weirdest thing in your room?
A Caganer figure—essentially a little statue of a man defecating. It’s traditionally supposed to be placed on a nativity scene; it symbolizes the fertilization of the nativity itself and the hopes for a good next harvest. My closest friend Isabel bought it for me. She was told by the shopkeeper that it symbolized the need to not take yourself too seriously and the value of mischief. Apparently that made Isabel think of me.

 

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Davinder Malhi, 17

calgary

Who do you play in Concord Floral?
I play the Bobolink, a very curious bird. One of the very first things I noticed about him was the hope he carries with him throughout the play. Despite circumstances out of his control, he has hope for a better tomorrow. He is not only in tune with his surroundings, but also life and death in general.

Who do you live with?
I live with my roommate, Carl. He is a very busy man, has more classes than I do (many at 8 a.m.) and is currently running for a position on the residence student council. He really gets around. I try not to stress him out, even if he makes a lot of noise while I’m sleeping. Sometimes he leaves for hours on end, and I get concerned, but sure enough he eventually walks through our heavy-duty wooden door. Classic Carl.

What’s your bedroom like?
My bedrooms, both at home in Calgary and in Toronto, have many sources of inspiration. I like to put up magazine pictures that tell nice stories. I like interesting colours and shapes on my walls, anything that will keep me thinking. In Calgary, my room was a lot more simple—a few pictures here and there, some paintings, and a huge canvas of New York City. I’ve since abandoned such themes, because I’m in a new phase of life and it seems useless to not let my dreams evolve, and along with that comes the shifting of my room. I’ve now resorted to organized clutter with different stimuli, stuff that I’m not really used to, because that’s where I am right now. I’m quite fond of it.

What’s your favourite thing in your room?
My Polaroid camera. I got it from a shady Kijiji swap at a Greyhound bus station in Calgary.

What’s the weirdest thing in your room?
I’ve got a pack of sequins in my room. I got them from Walmart back in Calgary because I thought they looked nice. It’s nice to have something pretty to look at, but I can’t use them for anything. At least I know that I have them in case of any emergencies that require sequins.

 

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Franco Pang, 20

Ottawa

Who do you play in Concord Floral?
I play the character Just Joey. He’s very aware of other’s perceptions of him. He wants to maintain a strong, confident appearance but as the play develops you begin to see some of his vulnerabilities.

Who do you live with?
While at home, I live with my mom, dad, and my sister. In Ottawa, I live with one of my friends from high school.

What’s your bedroom like?
My bedroom in Richmond Hill is the bedroom I’ve had my entire childhood. I have a few posters up in my room, but it’s sparsely decorated—I spent most of my time in other places throughout the house. In Ottawa, my apartment also has posters of my favourite TV and movies, such as Community and The Breakfast Club.

What’s your favourite thing in your room?
At home, I have a trio of Supernatural figurines that my sister gave me for my birthday. The figurines are Funko Pop models of Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester and Castiel.

What’s the weirdest thing in your room?
In my room in Richmond Hill, I have a wooden duck that my sister and I bought when we had visited Montreal a long time ago. The schtick is that there is a hole in the neck where you can insert a rod to “walk” the duck around. My sister and I plan to make a new rod—the old one broke—to walk it around the neighbourhood.

 

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Ofa Gasesepe, 19

Ottawa

Who do you play in Concord Floral?
I play Rosa Mundi. She is a layered and complex character and, for the most part, a closed book, which can make it difficult to understand and sympathize with her.

Who do you live with?
For the duration of this production, I’m living with a German woman named Andrea, who is a musician, piano teacher and freelance artist. There is also a young teacher’s college graduate named Jena who recently came from Germany to complete an internship in Toronto.

What’s your bedroom like?
When the photo was taken, my room had a pink colour scheme that evoked naïve girlhood—but to be fair, I hadn’t redecorated since moving in in the seventh grade. However, this summer, I took some time to redecorate it to reflect my love for vinyl (a small shelf in the corner); photography (half a wall of frames and collages); my work in Concord Floral (a poster and a shoe box with memorabilia); and a special section to commemorate my high school graduation (my cap, diploma and my beloved Dramatic Arts Award, as well as some pictures from the day hung on the wall).

What’s your favourite thing in your room?
A portrait of my mother that was taken by her friend Lisa, who was a photographer, and whom we were very close to when I was little. I haven’t seen her since I was 10 years old. But the picture is very dear to me because I don’t get to see my mother as much I would like to. I find comfort in looking at it. I brought it to Toronto with me, and it’s currently in my dressing room for good luck.

What’s the weirdest thing in your room?
An English fascinator hat that my mother found at a thrift store and decided to buy for me. I’ve never worn it and I can’t think of an occasion when I would have the opportunity to wear it, but I keep it anyway.

 

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Melisa Sofi, 18

North Toronto

Who do you play in Concord Floral?
I play Forever Irene. She is a very observant person who keeps to herself. I really admire how confident she is with herself whether she is alone or around others.

Who do you live with?
I am currently living with my parents and two siblings, and I share my bedroom with my older sister.

What’s your bedroom like?
Since my sister and I have different styles, we’ve always divided our room in half. We each have day beds that stand parallel from each other; the middle area between them acts as the border. While her side of the room is minimalistic with the exception of a mountain of textbooks, my side of the room is an organized mess. I choose to display all of my items and mementos that I have collected throughout the years from traveling and seeing performances—small gifts, funny cards or even weird knickknacks that I just find interesting.

What’s your favourite thing in your room?
My collection of my favourite children’s novels that I used to read as a kid. Some of these I’ve had since I was very young, while some I’ve recently re-found and bought again. I used to read a lot as a kid, so these books influenced me a lot when I was younger, and it’s nice to reflect on what that means now by having them around.

What’s the weirdest thing in your room?
My collection of lost guitar picks. I don’t know why but I constantly come across them. I used to think it was a sign to learn how to play, but all my attempts at it have resulted in failure. Now I just lend them to my little brother, who recently picked up the guitar and has, annoyingly, become very good at it in a short amount of time.