TWU’s School of the Arts, Media + Culture (SAMC) presents A Kind of Alaska—a moving play that captures the struggle of three people caught between past and present when one of them falls victim to a mysterious sleeping sickness.

TWU students perform a modern-day twist on Sleeping Beauty

A Kind of Alaska runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 at Trinity Western University

Trinity Western University’s SAMC Theatre kicks off January with a modern, ironic version of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Deborah emerges from a 29-year sleep believing she is still a teenager.

Confused and disoriented, she searches for clues to unlock the mysteries of this changed world. Who is this woman who claims to be her sister? Is the doctor who awakened Deborah her prince charming — or someone more sinister? And why does everyone insist she is middle-aged?

“It’s a fascinating experience to play someone who is much older than me but who believes she is younger,” said Alexandria Bay who plays Deborah.

“It has really made me think about how we experience age and how old any of us are inside.”

Nobel prize-winning playwright, Harold Pinter, drew inspiration for A Kind of Alaska from the Oliver Sacks book, Awakenings (made into a movie starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) which tells the story of those stricken with encephalitis lethargica.

Also known as “sleepy sickness,” this was a strange but once-epidemic illness that caused patients to sleep for years. Deborah is one of these patients, and uncovering the clues to her situation is bound to ignite lively conversation after the show.

“The play is great training for an actor,” said director and TWU Theatre professor, Lloyd Arnett.

“The subtext flows like an emotional river beneath the surface. The challenge and pleasure for a director and actors is not leaving things ambiguous but helping the audience come to a conclusion.”

The evening’s companion piece, David Grieg’s clever The Letter of Last Resort, is an equally thought provoking look at another sort of altered reality.

The newly elected Prime Minister of Britain and a civil servant discuss how to write a letter that will determine the fate of the world after nuclear attack. While seemingly improbable, a “letter of last resort” must be written by each incoming UK Prime Minister, and the play’s exploration of the options is both humourous and sobering.

A Kind of Alaska runs, together with The Letter of Last Resort, for one week only, Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, in the Robert N. Thompson building on the TWU campus.

Performances take place Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.twu.ca/theatre or call 604-513-2188.

Directed by Lloyd Arnett, with set design by Uliana Akulenko, and lighting by LoraLynne Hanley, these intriguing tales features performances by Alexandria Bay, Steven Simpson, and Joelle Wyminga.