URN Comes Home to the LSPU Hall

Santiago Guzmán’s award-winning play URN—a heartfelt drama about belonging, family, and grief—has its homecoming this week in St. John’s.

Santiago Guzmán’s award-winning new play URN is coming home to the LSPU Hall stage on Wednesday, June 29th, and Thursday, June 30th.

“The play is about several themes, but the most important is the idea of what home means to an immigrant,” Guzmán told The Independent. “When I left Mexico in 2015, I felt like a guest in Newfoundland. I thought that Mexico would always be home, but when I returned, it had changed; it felt different. So I was left with this question, ‘where is home?’”

“This is URN’s central theme, too, and it’s exciting that we’re performing it at my home, St. John’s, Newfoundland.”

URN has accolades behind it; Guzmán won the 2022 Arts and Letter Award for Senior Script and was shortlisted for the 2022 NCLU Fresh Fish Award with this script. URN also premiered in Dartmouth as part of the Stages Festival for Eastern Front Theatre.

The plot? Two siblings move from Mexico to Newfoundland and Labrador when they are very young; they have a falling out and become estranged from one another. They reconnect at their mother’s funeral and grapple with the decision of where to inter her ashes. Guzmán explains: “I think we (humans) don’t think about the future, so we don’t say what we want if the worst happens. Watching these two characters try to figure out what home meant to their mother is a different story than most audiences are used to seeing, but it’s relatable too. We all know grief.”

URN is produced by TODOS Productions. Guzmán wrote and stars in the play. His scene partner is Vanessa Cardoso Whelan, a talented multidisciplinary performer.

“It’s a two-hander,” Guzmán explained. “Vanessa plays my sister, and she’s just amazing. She can perform in three languages and speaks Spanish in the play. I adore working with her.”

Nora Barker is directing; Robyn Huxter joins her in the assistant director role. Sheldon Downey is the stage manager, and Michelle LaCour is the sound designer.

“We’re also fortunate to be joined by Alison Crosby from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who is doing the lighting design,” Guzmán added. “It’s wonderful to have her as part of our team.”

While URN isn’t a comedy, Guzmán told The Indy that it has plenty of funny moments.

“I wouldn’t classify it as comedy, but I believe that to feel great heartache and grief, we need to feel love and joy, so it is a funny play. Mexican humor is similar to the Newfoundland sense of humor; I think audiences will laugh with the characters.”

Guzmán hopes the play will spark conversations about belonging and acceptance, and the mandate of TODOS Theatre company is to show other narratives and highlight the experiences of communities whose stories have traditionally been missed or ignored.

“You know, I saw a comment on social media about how much funding URN received from granting bodies, and the comment seemed unfair to me because I’m doing work in Newfoundland and I’m representing our community, telling different stories, and people support this work,” Guzmán said. “In fact, it’s amazing how the community supports this work. My intention is to tell stories that haven’t gotten the airtime.”

You can catch URN at the LSPU Hall tonight and tomorrow (June 30th) at 7 PM.

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