An anniversary

Hello, Internet, today is Wednesday, August 9th, 2017, and 10 years ago today, I lost one of my very best friends to suicide.

The man who left my life – and the lives of so many others who loved him – suffered from a severe mental illness. There were, I believe, a number of other factors in his decision to end his life, but difficulty in accessing mental health care, and his need to keep the whole thing a secret, were the main players.

The early drafts of Give Me Back were an exorcism of my grief. As anyone who was with me in the development stages of the play can tell you, I couldn’t get through a session without crying. In 2012 – 5 years after the fact – we held a 3-day workshop of the play and I cried every day. I wrote new pages with tears streaming down my face. My dramaturge (who was marvelous) assured my readers, on my behalf, that my weeping was not about the notes they were offering me, and assured me that my emotional connection to the play was a strength and not a weakness.

Still, working on Give Me Back carries with it an emotional burden that regularly flattens me. Delivering this show to audiences is one of my very favourite things to do, but it drops my personal productivity down to almost nothing. Laundry does not get done. Dishes do not get washed. I require far more sleep every night and at least one nap in the day. I eat from stress, or I don’t eat at all. This is why, sometimes, I need to push it onto the back burner (or farther back, maybe even into the fridge to be dealt with in a few weeks or months). This is very likely why it took me 7 years to mount it at all.

In Give Me Back, Anna and Jonathan have this conversation by phone:

ANNA: It’s not depression, is it?
JONATHAN: What?
ANNA: It’s not depression. You have something else.
JONATHAN: No.
ANNA: Yes you do.
[…]
ANNA: Do you have schizophrenia?
Silence.
JONATHAN: That’s what they’re treating.

That interchange is an almost exact transcription from life. I was in a introductory psychology class at university and I figured it out, and then I asked. That’s how I found out. Most other people in his life, even the ones he trusted most, thought he had a depressive disorder.

After his death, I discovered just how rare the knowledge of his actual diagnosis was: his best friend had no idea, and years later I found out his brother didn’t know.

Sometimes I tell this story in Give Me Back talkback, and during this latest trip to Twillingate and New World Island (communities mourning a very recent death by suicide), I felt it again for the hundredth time: not being able to tell anyone about one of the most important parts of your life is isolating. And, separately, mental illness is isolating. And all research points to there being huge mental health benefits to having strong social supports, but if these two factors are constantly isolating you, maintaining social supports is difficult.

We, the average non-doctor, non-researcher, can’t do very much about the isolation resulting directly from mental illness (although, we can ask our elected officials to dedicate resources to effective mental health treatment, and we should, every day… more on that later). But we can do something about the stigma.

Things are changing. We no longer whisper the names of mental health care facilities in case someone might hear. Large corporations have made stigma-busting part of their ongoing marketing campaigns. But there is a long way to go.

In any given year, 1 out of every 5 Canadians will personally deal with a mental health problem. 20% of us… each year. Every single person in this country will be affected directly or indirectly by mental illness. That’s too many people not to be talking about it.

So, today, 10 years of real progress later, I would like to make a request: if it within your capacity to do something to make the world better for those struggling with their mental health, do it today. Right now, as soon as you read this.

Some suggestions:

  1. Write a letter to your MP or provincial representative. Find out their official policy on mental health and press them to improve it or act on it.
  2. Make a donation to the Canadian Mental Health Association, which works throughout Canadian communities to build and distribute mental health supports and resources.
  3. Reach out to somebody you know who is feeling a bit down recently, and just say hi. Not “hey, I was just wondering how your mental health was,” but just “hi.” Maybe “how are you?” Work today to make yourself a trustworthy, supportive, nonjudgmental friend.

Go! Make the world better. In memory of a person I was lucky to know, and who I wish many more people could have known. Please.

Thank you.

J. M. Olds Collegiate

Hello Internet, today is Friday, June 2nd, and yesterday we did two awesome shows at J. M. Olds Collegiate in Twillingate.

31May3

Such a handsome show.

Up and at’em first thing, we rolled into the school for a show at 9am. About 100 students poured in a few minutes after the first bell rang, and they were a totally lovely audience. Talk back was a quiet, but a few members of the drama club and some teachers stuck around after everyone was dismissed to chat with us afterwards. They were keen to see the boxes (every theatre enthusiast loves a good set made of boxes) and we wound up having quite a discussion about schizophrenia, the onset, the possible causes, the triggers, and the true story that the play is based on.

1June1

Our school audience

Then we had 8 hours before the next show, so we went on a few adventures.

First, we went looking for a lighthouse, since we’d been told that it offered a good panoramic. We found it eventually, but not before we stopped at another point just to have a look.

1June2

The ladies looking touristy

The pack ice apparently goes out 40 miles, and the folks who live here are pretty tired of it, but I can tell you that I have about a dozen pictures of the ocean covered in ice.

1June4

Here is one of those pictures.

We did find the lighthouse, after, and took a bunch of photos of ice there, too. We were promised a panorama and were not disappointed.

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A photo carefully chosen out of quite a selection on my phone

The lighthouse site is also home to a fudgery/gift shop, so obviously we had to go in. My peanut allergy kept me away from the homemade fudge, but there were a few pieces of fudge bought, and I did find an incredible Christmas ornament that needed documenting.

1June11

This, friends, is Santa and a puffin wearing a Christmas hat. They are riding a humpback whale. Merry Christmas!

Having reached the end of the road in one direction, we drove back the other way to continue our adventure. We thought we might go to Morton’s Harbour so that we could say we’d been “all around the circle,” but it turns out that MH is more than an hour’s drive from Twillingate, so we turned back to explore Twillingate some more.

Passing J. M. Olds again, I made the team get out and have a picture taken with the sign promoting the evening’s public performance.

1June12

They were good sports about it.

The road not yet taken was the road to the Auk Island Winery, and although we couldn’t partake of the wine before the next show, we were drawn inside by the promise of wine-flavoured soft serve. There were two flavours available yesterday: Moose Juice (blueberry/partridgeberry) and Krooked Cod (blueberry/raspberry), and we tried both of them. By way of review, I would say that I would eat Moose Juice-flavoured ice cream again.

Evan had the vanilla, but he lucked into two cones which gave us the opportunity to take this photo:

1June16

Life’s not bad, hey b’y

After returning to the motel for some downtime, we returned to the school to set up for our evening performance. The organizers were hoping for 50 people, but about 120 turned out to see the show!

We have been blown away by our incredible experience at J. M. Olds and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to play for the audience here and to chat with them about mental health.

1June22

This is what it looks like when 120 adults come to see a play about mental health in a school gym. In case you were wondering.

We have one more performance today at New World Island Academy, about half an hour from Twillingate.

Ready to go!

Hello Internet, today is Wednesday, May 31st, and we are ready to go in Twillingate!

After two great days of rehearsal in St. John’s, we got up this morning, picked up the van, picked up some rentals, picked up each other and a few changes of clothes and drove ourselves to Twillingate.

31May1

On the road again!

The van was skillfully packed by our pal BK this morning, so the challenge is on: can we remember how he fit it all in when we have to pack it all up again? Only time will tell.

With a quick stop in Gander to pick up some stage weights (thanks to Brian and Claude of the Gander Arts & Culture Centre!) and eat some long-awaited lunch, we headed up the Gander Bay Highway and started to just… marvel. The pack ice hasn’t fully unpacked itself up here and there are pieces floating in close to the shore all over the place. We didn’t get out of the car to take pictures, but there are some walks planned for tomorrow between shows.

We checked in to our digs (a brand new motel that still smells like fresh paint) and headed to J. M. Olds Collegiate to set up the gear.

31May2

Go Tigers!

I love how our little play looks so at home in school gyms. I love it so much.

I had a chance to shake hands with teacher Melissa Blackler and health worker Allison Vincent, who were so instrumental in bringing us here, and then Evan, Laura, Crystal and I collectively remembered which bits go where and how all the pieces go together.

31May4

I think the curtains set the paw prints off quite nicely!

Once the set up was done, we took the opportunity to run through the transitions, and were headed back to our digs, which are conveniently attached to a lounge that serves food until midnight, but we had to stop to take some pictures, because this is where we are right now:

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9pm, May 31, 2017, Twillingate

Not a bad way to end a full day of doing this thing we love.

Clarenville – Eastlink Event Centre

Hello Internet, today is Saturday, March 19th, and on Thursday, we had our closing performance at Clarenville’s Eastlink Event Centre.

Cville Centre

Prepping for focus.

About 250 students and teachers poured into the theatre to see the show, bringing our tour total to an estimate audience of 1870! We had 4 health workers join us for talk back afterwards, and we were asked some brand new questions, including what sort of treatments were available for mental illness and what drives Anna to make the choices she makes. What a neat feeling it is to be thinking on my feet on the final day!

Cville psych

Evan in the spotlight.

Yesterday, we packed up the cars and came home. After some running around and returning rental equipment and the van, all that’s left to do is to run a few numbers and write a few reports… and to write back a few folks who have expressed some very real interest in having the show tour to their region!

Although there has been a huge focus on mental health throughout this project, we are proud of Give Me Back for what it is by itself: a piece of theatre. We owe a lot to the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, who came on board to sponsor the tour and who regularly support art & culture in Newfoundland and Labrador; and to the Canada Council for the Arts, which invests in artistic work nation-wide.

As Laura said to me a few days ago, there is always a sense, when we come to the end of a Give Me Back project, that it isn’t the end. The song in her head that day was:

We’ll meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again one sunny day…

Guest Blog #2!

It’s time for Guest Blog Post #2!

Since our last blog post, we’ve been through Grand Falls-Windsor, Fogo Island, Grand Bank, and are now writing from our last stop on the tour, Clarenville.

We didn’t have a show in Grand Falls-Windsor, but did have a full day off to explore. Evan sent out a Facebook call for recommended places to eat, and Kumar’s was mentioned multiple times. Once we finally rolled out of bed (being that it was our first chance to really sleep in), we decided to breakfast-lunch-and-dinner at Kumar’s, and we were certainly not disappointed. We were all craving some Indian food by this point so we ordered as much as we could: onion bahjia, vegetable pakora, garlic naan, butter naan, stuffed naan, chicken tikka, chicken masala, beef saagwala, chicken madras curry, and large amounts of rice with pretty pink bits.

guest2 kumar's

#givemecurry #givemesnacks

It was the most delicious Indian food any of us have ever eaten, made fresh for us by the nicest chef, and we had enough to bring home for a large supper. We begged her to open a restaurant in St. John’s, as is her wish. After lunch we headed over to the bowling alley to find that there was a massive bowling league there that afternoon, so we had to take a few hours off to digest and went back later to an empty bowling alley. We donned our Ninja Turtle alter egos and Raphael, after repeatedly dropping the ball, kicked our butts twice. We then accidentally found an arcade room, where Michelangelo won a bunch of gumballs and Donatello rocked the pinball machine. Leonardo was overcome by the $22 leggings sold at the bowling alley.

guest2 bowling

#givemestrikes #givemegumballs #givemeTMNT

Fogo Island was our next endeavour. Wow.

That’s almost all we can say about our time there.

First of all, it’s gorgeous, the people are lovely, the school was great, and we got to stay in a really fantastic house.

AND, we picked up a new tour groupie – Producer Kat! She joined us in Fogo Island with our school touring kit (lights & speakers, since we had been presenting in theatres until this point).

Since we were staying in a house, Mama Huckle Jr. cooked us our first home cooked meal of the tour – spaghetti bolognaise on shell pasta, sans spaghetti. Our show was the next morning (Friday), followed by a lovely lunch in armchairs at Flat Earth Coffee. We booked reservations for supper the next day at the Fogo Island Inn, and enjoyed the rest of the day off. Saturday was an exploring adventure day, and Kat took us around the island to Joe Batt’s Arm and Tilting. We didn’t see any seals (despite calling out to them), but the views almost made up for it.

guest2 fi

#givemeviews #givemeseals

That night, we enjoyed a fancy feast at the Fogo Island Inn. There aren’t really words to describe, but we’ll try.

It was all just amazing. Laura cried three times in sheer delight over every course and drink that appeared at our table. We were in awe as the chef came over to describe our meals, and we’re nearly took Donny, the bartender, home (collectively, as a group), after playing a few rounds of “invent that cocktail” following our meal. We loved every second of it.

guest2 fii

#givemetears #givemegut #givemeDonny #givemesnacks

The next day (Sunday), we got back on the ferry, said goodbye to Fogo Island, and began the long, long trek to Grand Bank.

Our motel was in a state of mid-renovation, and while we enjoyed the comfy beds and new bathrooms, we were mildly surprised and entertained by the lack of molding around the bathroom doors. But, we’ve spent enough time together on this tour that we were all pretty comfortable with each other by this point.

Everyone who has ever been to Grand Bank told us that we had to go to Sharon’s Nook for cheesecake – and so we did. Our first day there was a day off, so we drove over for breakfast, did a bit of exploring, and then returned for some of the best cheesecake we’ve ever had (which, we discovered, could be baked or unbaked), and got our crossword puzzle game on for the afternoon. We’re basically crossword plebes pros.

guest2 crosswords

#givemehints #givemebrains

Monday morning, we arrived at the school bright and early for our next show. We loaded in in record time, which gave us time to go back to Sharon’s Nook for brunch before the show.

John Burke High School was a fantastic audience (as all of our audiences have been!) and we got a standing ovation following the show, which felt really great. Speaking with the students afterwards, it was so rewarding to see the positive impact we had on them. For the millionth time, we were reminded of how important this message has been to each town we’ve visited.

We packed up (in record time again), and before driving to our last town of the tour, we stopped into Cashel’s Cove Crafts, a small store in Spanish Room owned and operated by the lovely Irene Hurley of the Burin Peninsula Arts Council (who brought us to Grand Bank!). We fell in love with all of her wares quite quickly and each of us left with a bag of goodies from her shop.

Now, we’re in Clarenville, enjoying a day off before our last show tomorrow afternoon at the Eastlink Events Centre. Our time off has mostly been spent eating (a lot), sleeping in, playing cards, doing crosswords, watching Matilda, and swimming in the hotel’s pool.

We’ll be sad to see the end of this tour. From traveling from town to town, and performing to over 2000 students and their teachers, it’s clear how important this piece is. While we’re all excited to get back home to our own beds, we’ve left pieces of our hearts in Bay Roberts, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador City, Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor, Fogo Island, Grand Bank, and Clarenville (and everywhere we stopped along the way). We’ve met some truly amazing people and have had some wonderful times. But, we’re sure that this isn’t the last of Give Me Back, and can’t wait to get our boxes back on the road again soon.

-Crystal, Evan, Laura (and Producer Kat)

#giveusmoreGiveMeBack

John Burke High – Grand Bank

Hello, Internet, today is Wednesday, March 16th, and yesterday we performed for the senior high students at John Burke High School in Grand Bank.

GB set up

If you have been following closely, Internet, you may have noticed that the tour got substantially less busy after our two-show day in Stephenville. Since then, there has been multiple days with either nothing, or only a couple of hours of things to do.

The day we left Fogo Island, though, was not a day of little-to-nothing. We pulled ourselves out of bed at 7am the day that the clocks went forward (darn you, Daylight Savings Time!!), piled our belongings into the van, and went to catch the 9am ferry.

The Fogo Island ferry has been a subject of much pain and ire this winter, as their shiny new boat was pulled off its route, replaced by the old ferry, which then dropped a garbage truck in the ocean, etc etc. (See here, here, here, here and here for backstory if you like.) So it was with some trepidation that we approached the ferry terminal for the first trip after the new ferry’s return to service.

Other than a 45-minute delay for mechanical difficulties (not the best phrase to inspire confidence), we made it on board and crossed without incident. The new ferry is very snappy, with a coffee bar, cruise-ship style seating and, apparently, access to sunbathing on the roof.

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The rest of the day was spent driving. Nothing compared to the St. John’s-to-Stephenville snowstorm, but a bit of snow and a bit of rain accompanied us for 10 total hours of travel from (basically) the north end of the island to (basically) the south end of the island. We arrived in Grand Bank, ate supper and collapsed into our respective beds.

The next day was a day off, and also the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, so we bounced around Grand Bank a bit. A couple of us had grant applications due for March 15th, so there was some work done on other projects and the like.

Yesterday morning, we woke up still a bit bleary from the time change, lugged ourselves to Sharon’s Nook for coffee and bagels, and then went into the school to set up.

With an army of student volunteers led by Ms. Blackwood, we had the show loaded into the gym, set up, and leveled in just over 2 hours – a new record for us! We had to go back to Sharon’s for lunch. We love it there.

GB audience

All set up and already relaxed. Around 10am.

Around 1pm, about 100 students finished lunch and filed into the gym class by class. Mr. Masters, the school principal, introduced us, saying that a survey held with students earlier in the year had indicated a desire to see more work with student wellness. The social worker dealing with Mental Health and Addictions at the local hospital came to see the show and to speak with the students afterwards.

The performance went over extraordinarily well. Students loved it, and Mr. Masters commented to me that it was lovely to tick both theatre and mental health boxes with our performance. The helpfulness continued into our load out, as we spoke with many students one on one about the show and then had them help us load the van (we’re sneaky like that).

We packed up and came to Clarenville last night, where we are set to do our final performance of this tour tomorrow afternoon.

Fogo Island!

Hello, Internet, today is Saturday, March 12th, and yesterday we did a show for the junior high and high school aged students at Fogo Island Central Academy.

I have a long history with Fogo Island (for four years I worked for the Shorefast Foundation, and founded and ran a theatre company here), and I was excited to come out again, but there is something especially wonderful about bringing new people to this island so that they can see the stark beauty of the place, meet some of the best people, and enjoy living in a refurbished traditional house up against the wind.

So, on Thursday we left our hotel in Grand Falls-Windsor and came straight up to Farewell, where one catches the ferry. We were aiming for the 11:15am crossing, but were prepared to turn around and get lunch in Gander or Lewisporte if we couldn’t get on. As we pulled up to the booth, though, the ferry was docked and unloading, and we were the only ones wanting to get on, so on we got.

Fogo Island van on boat

The lone vehicle on the ferry.

It was a beautiful crossing and the ferry ride was spectacular.

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We arrived, found our house, and had time for lunch and a bit of an explore before heading to the school to load in after classes ended at 3pm.

Fogo Island brimstone head

Brimstone Head – the corner of the flat earth

We had a lovely experience at FICA. We were met by the Vice Principal, Guidance Counselor and 4 enthusiastic students who helped us put everything together. Within 3 hours, we had the show loaded in, set up, the sound and lighting levels fixed (school gyms are especially interesting for sound levels), and had run through a couple of pieces.

Fogo Island set up

Almost ready…

Fogo Island nap

Laura takes a rest before levels in the audience seating.

Yesterday, we awoke to a shockingly beautiful day. As usual, I was up far earlier than I wanted to be, but I set up a little kitchen office which is likely my favourite temporary office of the tour.

Fogo Island office space

Not bad at all.

We went into the school for 9:30 for the 11:05 show, taped down some cables, and generally were nervous (maybe that was just me) until the students started filing in.

Fogo Island ready to goThe show was lovely. About 100 students sat on those mats and watched very attentively.

At talk back, we had 3 workers from Central Health come and speak to the students. It seems that Fogo Island Central Academy works closely with the healthcare workers to promote mental health already: they have a committee between them, consisting of teachers, a student representative, and a public health nurse. It was wonderful to see that these students, who live in relative isolation (you do, after all, have to get in a boat to get here), are so supported in their own community.

Today is a day off, so I am set to visit some people I know and rarely see, while Crystal, Evan and Laura are left to their own devices to do some exploring.

Fogo Island the team goes exploring

Taken from the window of the house: my excellent cast & crew, running towards the ocean.

Based on their enthusiasm yesterday, I think they will have a successful time of it.

Give Me Back and the winter tires

Hello, Internet, today is Thursday, March 10th, and the Give Me Back team has been mostly “off” for the last couple of days.

As a result, I don’t have a lot of setting-up-and-doing-shows to tell you about, but I do have:

***

The epic adventure of Give Me Back and the winter tires

Once upon a time, a little theatre company sought to rent a minivan with winter tires. The van was to be picked up at the St. John’s airport, driven to Deer Lake to pick up the rest of the group, driven to Stephenville, and then to Fogo Island and on and on until it was eventually returned in St. John’s. The van was booked and all was well.

Then, on the crucial day when the van was to be picked up, it was not returned on time by its previous renters!

“Oh dear!” exclaimed the rental clerk! “We have a minivan that we can give you, but it does not have winter tires on it! Would you prefer an SUV with 4-wheel drive?”

Well, the SUV was examined, but it was determined that the poles for the masking would not fit into it, and so a van with all-season tires was rented. The clerk suggested that one with winter tires might be available at any one of the myriad locations on the van’s route. She also suggested that, if the driver were to wait until the airport location opened in the morning, the minivan with winter tires would likely be returned by then and could be exchanged. With that in mind, the driver pushed aside thoughts of leaving St. John’s in the very early to avoid the island-wide snowstorm that was being heralded on the news and all weather stations, and awaited the morn.

The next day, the minivan with winter tires was indeed returned! And the morning rental clerk sent it directly to be washed so that it could be exchanged. But alas, the it was not to be, for in the washbay, the minivan’s “Check Engine” light was on, and the van had an odd rattle. And so, the driver gritted her teeth and drove – very carefully and quite slowly – to Deer Lake in a snowstorm on all-season tires.

In Deer Lake, she explained the situation to the clerk at the airport there, but no minivan with winter tires was available. Instead, she offered a business card with a direct line, to check back later. The minivan took the driver and the 3 other passengers, whom it had picked up in Deer Lake, all the way to Stephenville, and rested there for the night.

Well, 2 days later, having served its purpose well in the bringing of Give Me Back from the hotel to the Arts & Culture Centre and back, the minivan took the driver and two potential secondary drivers to the rental location in Stephenville, where a van with winter tires had been promised. But alas! This van, when it was returned, was flagged for a safety recall, and thus could not be given to the intrepid travelers. Nor could the location add secondary drivers, for lo, the rental system that the airports use is a different one that the rest of the rental locations, and because the rental was made at the St. John’s airport, only Deer Lake airport could add drivers.

And so it was that, after much toil, on Tuesday, March 8th, in the afternoon, a minivan with winter tires was acquired from the Deer Lake airport, drivers added, and all the gear and persons transferred. And the Give Me Back company drove on to Grand Falls-Windsor in comfort and safety.

***

Aside from the van thing, though, we have had a lovely couple of days. The rest of the company were kind and patient enough to give me 3 hours of skiing on Marble Mountain, which made me about as happy as a bowl full of clams.

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And we had our first no-load-in-no-show-and-no-travel-proper-day-off yesterday in Grand Falls-Windsor, where we stumbled upon the best Indian food any of us have ever eaten in Newfoundland and Labrador, tried to go bowling but found that there was a league taking up every lane (in the middle of the day on a Wednesday), so went back later and bowled our hearts out. There was also an arcade.

Dayzoff arcade

Laura won us some gumballs.

And after a lovely evening of leftover Indian food and cards, we turned in, looking forward to a trip to Fogo Island in the morning.

2-show day!

Hello, Internet, today is Tuesday, March 8th, and yesterday, 520 junior high and high school students and teachers saw Give Me Back at the Stephenville Arts & Culture Centre.

Sville2 house

Our day started with a quick run for bagels and then a 9am call for a 10am show. Honestly, this is one of the oddest things about doing theatre for schools: we are all used to showing up at 6 or 7pm to perform at 7 or 8 at night. Doing a show at 10am means that everyone shows up a bit bleary and then has to use the dark theatre to trick themselves (ourselves) into thinking it’s at least the afternoon. Sometimes this takes the form of walking around the greenroom saying “it’s the afternoon, it’s the afternoon.”

The first show had the larger audience, and they had a lot of really interesting questions at talkback. What’s the difference between schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder? Why did you use the boxes? Do you think there is a negative stigma of schizophrenia that is propagated by the media? Why did you choose schizophrenia to write about?

The standout thing about yesterday was that I was set to teach a writing workshop to 50 students between shows. The purpose of the workshop was not so much to strengthen their writing skills (although practice is the best thing you can do for that) as to give them an opportunity to use writing to process what they had just seen, and some of the stuff that the students volunteered to read aloud was fantastic: full of heart, with concrete details and even a bit of rhyming. The final exercise was to take a conversation from their own lives that they wish they had gone differently and to rewrite it. Not surprisingly, nobody volunteered to read from their work after that one, but one student told me afterwards that he wanted to rewrite many of his conversations, and I hope that he uses that exercise to process, and, perhaps, to become more sure of himself. Another student, who had seen the show at Holy Heart in April, told me that the first time he saw it, he went away processing all of the emotional content, but this second time, he noticed that mental illness doesn’t just affect the one person; it affects that person’s friends and family as well. This struck a chord for me, especially after – that morning – having read this blog post about exactly that, written by a colleague and personal hero. I love that students are seeing this play, thinking about it, and applying those thoughts to their own lives.

Our second audience was smaller, but just as keen. For the second talk back, Angel Osmond of the Stephenville office of the Canadian Mental Health Association NL came to speak. Having Angel there was an awesome experience. She pointed out that schizophrenia directly affects only 1% of the population – a fact that I often forget to mention – but that they may see symptoms like this in a friend or a family member. She also got to publicly thank the students who were attending from the high school in Port-aux-Basques, who had made a donation to CMHA-NL, and who in turn had dedicated some of that money to helping us bring Give Me Back to Stephenville.

Let me pause here for a moment to just thank the Canadian Mental Health Association. They have been a fabulous partner from the moment that we approached them: they applied for funding on our behalf, and when that didn’t work out, they simply donated some money to the project – a welcome and completely unexpected surprise. CMHA-NL works to bring mental health resources into the community, wherever they are. They work to improve mental health conditions in workplaces, they bring resources into schools for children, and do a wide array of work to influence policy and build capacity for communities to address mental health needs. They are an amazing organization and we are lucky to have their support.

After the second show, we loaded out and – for the first time – tried to simplify the packing process, since we’re not doing any more flying. This meant leaving 2 boxes and all of the box lids intact, so all the cardboard fit into one of the giant brown u-haul boxes. We bade a sad goodbye to the other, more broken box.

Sville2 byebye

“Goodbye, box. You were a good box.”

On the upside, though, we no longer had any need for the bubble wrap that we’d used to cushion our boxes inside their boxes, so Evan cheered himself up with some good, old-fashioned bubble wrap popping.

Sville2 bubblewrap

Look how happy it makes him!

There is now bubble wrap in random pockets throughout the tour van, to be popped as necessary.

After loading out and wishing the Stephenville Arts & Culture Centre staff well, we went for a short drive to the beach, which is just stunningly beautiful in winter, and I thanked my stars for the incredible opportunity to be on this tour.

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