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Automation, immigration and labour rights spotlighted in Switch Triptych Nov. 8-15

Travel back in time to a New York telephone exchange circa 1919 as three Bell Atlantic “hello girls” grapple with the impending automation of their switchboards in Switch Triptych.

Written by Adriano Shaplin and presented by the Douglas College departments of Theatre and Stagecraft & Event Technology, Switch Triptych is a mix of absurd comedy and political satire. The play centres on Lucille, a first-generation Italian immigrant and inebriated queen bee, along with mild-mannered June, a British new hire who turns out to be a union rep at a time when America was highly suspicious of labour organization, and Philippa, who rounds out the triptych of phone operators. Attempting to keep the matriarchy in line are luckless male managers Andrew and Truman.

Tackling themes such as immigration, labour rights and automation, Switch Triptych remains relevant in the modern world despite being set 100 years ago, said director Deborah Neville.

“This playwright creates quite a mashup of time. He roots us in 1919 New York, with the unions rising, women taking more employment and the influx of immigrants, but he also cleverly inter-weaves modern references, quotes and even song lyrics. He’s quite witty that way,” Neville says.

Adriano Shaplin is co-founder of the internationally acclaimed, experimental theatre troupe, the Riot Group. Switch Triptych debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest in 2005 and 14 years later, it’s been given a North American refresh by Neville for its Douglas College debut.

“Shaplin is an Italian playwright writing in Scotland. You can hear his Italian identity in the script, as well as the Protestant/Catholic battle that is prevalent in Scotland. I’ve taken out some of the religious debate in the script and instead focused on the protagonist Lucille's internal struggle and her spiritual journey. I think this will resonate more succinctly for a Western Canadian audience,” says Neville.

The student cast includes Richard Chapman (Coquitlam), Bryan Kazun (Coquitlam), Dahlia-Raphael Kerr (Chilliwack), Natalie Peters (Langley) and Dominique Timofte (Delta).

Switch Triptych runs in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre at Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus Nov. 8-15. For tickets and show times, visit switchtriptych.bpt.me