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Exploring Winners, Losers And Theater With James Long and Marcus Youssef

Courtesy of Simon Hayter

What does it mean to be a winner in today's society? That's a concept Canadian theater artists James Long and Marcus Youssef explore in their show, "Winners and Losers." They've taken the show all over the world, most recently to Seattle's On The Boards.

The two friends got the idea for this performance during a conversation they had about a friend's recent divorce. "We were walking through the woods at the time," Long explains. "I don't think any alcohol was involved." Youssef laughs and takes up the story.

"We were planning to write a play together, about two competing Russian novelists," he said. To prep themselves for the actual script writing process, they sat down and riffed back and forth about who wins and loses in contemporary Canada. The result of this improvisation was a heated conversation about race and class.

The current performances are all based on that original improv, each tailored to the city where the two artists are scheduled to perform. But Youssef says there's a set framework that always brings the conversation to a frank discussion of privilege — be it race or class based.

Long warns that "Winners and Losers" isn't like a typical play. "It can get really, really cruel," he says.

But his artistic partner, Youssef, says would-be audience members shouldn't be scared off. "I can honestly say it's got a lot of humor."

"Winners and Losers" is at On The Boards Studio Theater in Seattle from April 23-27.