Looking at our shrinking world with the Naked Tourist

While Naked Tourist, Sacred Mountain is based on real events, the story of two tourists, Natalie and Owen, dealing with an international incident is a theme that seems to be happening more and more, according to playwright, Rod Macpherson.

The story will be coming to the Humboldt Collegiate Institute on March 13 thanks to Arts Humboldt along with Macpherson who will be running the stage.

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The incident that sparked Macpherson’s interest for the play was based on two Saskatchewan tourists who took pictures naked on a mountain in Borneo in 2015 and got into hot water when they are blamed by officials for causing an earthquake that killed 18 people.

The play tells the story of two young western tourists who wind up in the same situation and have to get themselves out of it.

This theme of young western tourists getting into international scraps is not even something new, says Macpherson, but thanks to social media, events like these are becoming publicized on the internet.

“They post things on the internet and local authorities get a hold of things that might be a bad idea or may have been influenced by alcoholic beverages. You just don’t get away with it now.”

And much of the time, people think they are posting harmless tweets or jokes that end up getting national or international attention leading to internet shame which is easy to come by sometimes.

“The internet tends to say, ‘this is a bad person, look what they’ve done,’ and gets all moral and better than them,” says Macpherson. “Yes, you’ve done something wrong but then the internet gets ahold of it and it’s just magnified a million times.”

Cultural conflict is also a major theme of the play with people from very different backgrounds trying to find some common ground and understand each other.

The play is not about the issues, but more about the lives of four people and considering he was dealing with people of such different cultures and faiths, Macpherson did not want the stereotypical characters telling a story that is unrelated to the actual cultures in the play, especially the character of the tourism official.

“(These) are real people with real backgrounds and real motivations. To make sure that that’s authentic, I had to do some research.”

To achieve goal of authenticity, Macpherson says he ran the play by a lot of people including an Imam, an islamic prayer leader, and Lawrence Chang, a professor of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Saskatchewan a great resource, filling in Macpherson’s gaps in Malaysian history and culture.

“Chang was pleased with the result and his wife came to see it and actually thought Earl (the man playing the Malaysian tourism official) was Malaysian. Between the actor and the writer, you’ve done a pretty job (creating) the illusion that this is how it might have happened.”

With so many people traveling outside the country, the message of cultural respect is a major theme of the play but not something that Macpherson wanted to preach, he says.

Naked Tourist, Sacred Mountain had a two week run in Saskatoon and, with Humboldt still mourning the loss of Sutherland Theatre, Arts Humboldt is excited to bring professional theatre to Humboldt, says Brian Grest with Arts Humboldt.

“To be able to bring a professional theatre group into Humboldt is a rare occasion and we’re hoping that people will embrace the fact that they don’t have to go to Saskatoon to see this play.”

While Grest assures everyone that there is no nudity, there is mature content and some stronger language, but it is still considered suitable for most high school students, warns Grest on the Facebook event post.

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