Watch “Road Hockey Stories: Episode Two – Mitch” First Goal

Here’s Episode 2 in a series of teasers for Lost & Found Theatre’s new play “Pocket Rocket” by Waterloo Region playwrights Lea Daniel and Gary Kirkham.
We will be showing all the stories we’ve collected as a pre-show treat at performances of the play April 20 to 30 at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener.
For more information and a peek behind the scenes visit the Lost & Found Theatre’s blog.

Watch “Road Hockey Stories: Episode One – Paul”

I’m having a great time talking to people in Waterloo Region about their memories of playing road hockey
I volunteered  to start this series of short videos to help Lost and Found Theatre promote the world premiere of Pocket Rocket a new play by Lea Daniel and Gary Kirkham.
Checkout the Lost and Found Theatre blog to get a peek behind the scenes of the video series and the play.
Here’s Episode 1.

View through a cracked lens

Gary Working at dining room table
Gary Kirkham working at my dining room table during one of our writing sessions.

Over the past year, I have been working on a new play with my friend and colleague Gary Kirkham, a well-known and well-respected playwright.

Gary started out as my mentor when he led Writers Bloc, a playwriting collective run by Kitchener’s Theatre and Company in the early 2000s. Our relationship evolved over the years and since 2012 we have collaborated on a number of projects from short films to theatre productions.

Our lastest collaboration is a new work of verbatim theatre. Based on the real words of real people, “Rage Against Violence” was commissioned by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR) for its annual awareness and fundraising event November 30, 2015. It’s based on a series of interviews conducted by Gary and me as well as WCSWR staff. These interviews include:

  • Women who have lived with violent partners;
  • Police officers who respond to domestic violence calls;
  • Shelter support workers who answer crisis lines and guide women through escape and recovery;
  • The nurse who records and treats the physical and emotion damage wrought by abusive partners
  • And the journalist who reports on the trials of people who’ve murdered their intimate partner.

My time as a photojournalist taught me to view the world through a lens – literally and figuratively.

It was a technique I often used to distance myself emotionally from things I would rather not deal with, but had to: the mundane, the bureaucratic, but most importantly the horrific. This is not to say you shut down empathy or concern for others, but you look at things pragmatically to get the job done.

I still use this lens when I’m confronted with the tough things in life. It helped me deal with one of our greatest challenges in writing “Rage Against Violence” – hearing the pain in these women’s voices as they relived the violence.

However, there were moments when I felt the lens crack; I’d draw a ragged breath – stifle a errant sob:

Vivian – “There was a crack under the cell door. I laid down on the floor and tried to breath through the crack”

Kelly – “The girls were hiding behind the toilet. And he was running the water in the bathtub with the plug in.”

Susan – “He went to the basement and came back with a … machete.”

The Nurse – “After an emotional day … you would gather your family together … no matter what your kids did that day you would hug them tighter that night.”

The room would go silent. I would look at Gary; he would be struggling with his emotions too.

Click for a larger view.

Gary and I believe part of our job is to make the lens crack, to draw attention to the things in life we would rather not confront, to have you struggle with the same emotions we faced in our work. And, we do this in the hope you will take the experience back to the community and enrich everyone’s life with your insights and understanding.

While we have poured ourselves into this project, it would not be possible without the funding, trust and artistic freedom granted to us by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. It’s the progressive thinking of people like Mary Zilney, executive director of WCSWR, that transforms art into community building.

“Rage Against Violence” will run for one night only in Waterloo Region – November 30, 2015 at the Dunfield Theatre 46 Grand Ave., Cambridge. We hope you will come and see this one-of-a-kind production and support Women’s Crisis Services by buying a ticket and making a donation to its work.

Telling stories from Generation to Generation

Photo: Digital Storytelling WorkshopOne thing I know about myself is that I love to start new projects. It is like opening a door to a sunny spring day. Anything is possible.

Another thing I know about myself is I’m not necessarily a strong finisher. In fact I like the idea of always beginning.

This is part of the reason over the past two years I’ve being focusing my practice on working with people to help them share their personal stories with the greater community.  Stories, whether being created or told are new each time. The experience is fresh with meaning in each iteration.

Combine this with my passion for geeking out on media technology and you have the framework for a neLogo: Region of Waterloo Arts Fundw collaboration – Generation to Generation. With funding from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund, I will be working with theatre artists Nada Homsi, Pam Patel and Heather Majaury and generations of people who have fled conditions in their homeland to live here in Waterloo Region.

We will also be working with a number of community partners including: African Community Wellness Initiative, Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support, Reception House of Waterloo Region and the YMCA Immigrant Services.

Through storytelling, video and theatre we will explore the passing of family narratives from generation to generation.

Over the coming months I will be tweeting my own generation-to-generation stories under the hashtag #Gen2Gen. I invite you to join this stream to share your family stories.

I will leave you with a quote sent to me just yesterday by my friend and a storyteller in one of my workshops, Chuck Erion.  It immediately resonates with me in the context of this project. Here is part of this message below:

Here’s a quote for you:
“All sorrows can be borne,” the great Danish writer Karen Blixen once said, in a line Grosz cites in his book and that could well serve as its epigraph, “if you put them in a story, or tell a story about them.”

It’s from this book review.

What it means to be a friend

Social media has changed forever the meaning of the word friend, but when I think of friends I don’t picture the list in my Facebook profile. I picture the faces of people I’ve met, people with whom I’ve shared time and common purpose. These are the faces of people I know actual give a damn about me and the world we live in.

This is not to say my friends care more than others’; your friends care for you in the same way.

Physical proximity is a fundamental part of friendship and for that matter human relationships in general. When I sit across the table from someone, pass them in the street, redirect mis-delivered mail or feed their cat when they are on vacation, I’m more likely to listen to, care for, protect or share with them, simply because they are … near to me.

And that is the whole point.

The more I connect with people who are close by, the easier I find it is to understand the gap that separates me from those who are far away – the gap created by war, poverty, hunger, injustice … lack friendship.

I recently shot and produced a promotional video for the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. It is part their Friends of Crime Prevention campaign, created to help recognize and mobilize those who are making the place where we live safer and more secure by building community – parents, teachers, researchers, community activists and police officers. I met six new “friends” with whom I’ve shared time, purpose and values through this project.

Shortly after finishing the video I spent an evening with another group of friends and artists from the MT Space, where I sit on the board of directors. We spent the evening preparing food for our annual donor appreciation dinner. I sliced onions, chopped parsley, drank wine and sang shoulder-to-shoulder with people who share a belief that theatre and art are essential to a vibrant community life.

Both this videos are under 2 minutes. If you take the time to watch them I’m sure you’ll see the connection between the people who stand next to you and the well being of your community and your world.

It is these friends that make up the fabric of our lives and this place we call home.