British Columbia

Gabor Maté and Calgary performer team up to create play exploring trauma

The renowned addictions expert provides commentary in a multidisciplinary performance that is more like a TedTalk than a play.

The Damage is Done — A True Story is at the Cultch Oct. 20 to 24

Dr. Gabor Mate and his son Daniel are presenting a workshop exploring the often complicated relationship between parents and their adult children. (Gabor Mate)

Hungarian-Canadian performer Rita Bozi grew up in a family scarred by war.

Her older brother was born to her parents in Hungary just shortly before the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a nationwide revolt against the government of the time which was largely controlled by the Soviet Union.

During the uprising, which was violently crushed by the Soviets, her father fled, leaving her mother alone for eight years before they finally reunited and came to Canada.

"What was so shocking to me as a child is I didn't know why there was so much rage and anger and upset and fear and fighting in my family," said Bozi, who was born in Canada.

"I thought, 'Oh they're just crazy people,' and I realized as I matured and gained knowledge that there was trauma."

Gabor Maté invited to collaborate

Bozi, a Calgary-based actor, writer and former dancer, has channeled that trauma into a multidisciplinary play at the Cultch titled The Damage is Done — A True Story, which also stars renowned author and speaker Dr. Gabor Maté, as himself.

The show, which runs Oct. 20 to 25, has Bozi playing a number of characters while Dr. Maté provides commentary, and together they explore how cultural history and family dynamics have resulted in their experiences of depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.

Bozi approached Dr. Maté, who is also Hungarian-Canadian, to join her project since her play is partly inspired by his recent book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

Actor and therapist Rita Bozi and Dr. Gabor Maté explore how trauma is passed down through generations in their play at the Cultch. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Dr. Maté said the project was a good fit.

"All my books and all my work has to do with the impact of early childhood trauma on people's lives and how trauma — although we don't recognize it as such — actually programs our lives in significant ways: how we feel about ourselves, the world and our relationships," he said.

"It was right up my alley in terms of the work I've been doing for years," he said.

Intergenerational trauma

Dr. Maté, whose own family survived the Holocaust, said research shows that trauma can be passed down biologically to at least three generations.

"I see this in my medical work all the time. They're passed on for multiple generations until something happens to break that cycle, and what needs to happen is consciousness and that is what this play wants to point towards," he said.

Bozi said the play is not about "undoing damage," but about uncovering the pain from the past.

Dr. Mate agreed, and quoted some of the last lines of the play:

"Liberation is always at least a possibility," he said.

"But to liberate oneself one has to realize that one is not free from the past, and that's the beginning of freedom."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Gabor Maté and performer Rita Bozi team up to create play exploring trauma at the Cultch


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