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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.

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)


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.

Adventures in Labrador

Hello, Internet, today is Saturday, March 5th, and yesterday we did the show for 200 high school students at the Labrador West Arts & Culture Centre.

Because of the availability of school buses, our show was performed perforce at 9:30 in the morning, which was a bit of a mind shift for us, but it went over fantastically. You could hear a pin drop in there. Magical.

LabWest 2 crew

Group shot!

We hit up a popular fast food restaurant for lunch because it was the closest thing to the hotel, and Evan wowed us with his colouring skills. Unfortunately, the crayon selection was… somewhat limited. Binary, even.

LabWest 2 Evan

Work in progress. Evan refused to colour Paddington’s hat any colour but yellow, and so it remains uncoloured.


The next bit of the tour is a bit weird, because I had to go back to St. John’s last night in order to pick up the van and all of the gear we need for school shows and drive out to meet the other three when they land in Deer Lake today.

So, yesterday afternoon I went to the Wabush airport with the giant boxes full of boxes – my portion of the checked luggage. I have taken these on purpose, because: a) I don’t trust that they’ll take these giant boxes as checked luggage EVEN THOUGH we’ve done it twice before; and b) if they DON’T allow them as checked luggage, then they have to go cargo, and I’d rather they had some extra time to get to Deer Lake (or Stephenville).

There is now a standard conversation with airport staff regarding these boxes. It goes like this:

Airline/Airport staff: Those are cargo.

Me: Nope, they’re luggage. The two of them together are 50lbs.

Staff: Well, they’re not going to fit through the x-ray machine.

Me: No, they’re not.

Staff: We’ll have to open them.

Me: Yes, you will.

There is no airport x-ray machine that can take these huge, awkward boxes, even diagonally, so they always have to open them. In St. John’s, they had us come over to look inside with them.

Staff: What’s in the boxes?

Me: Boxes. And bubble wrap.

Staff (opening first box and peering inside): Yep. Those are boxes.

In Goose Bay, it was a bit more complicated, but still a pretty seamless experience.

Staff: I don’t know if we can take them.

Me: You took them last time.

Staff: Mmph. Let me check.

(two minutes pass)

Staff: OK, we’ll take them. But we’ll have to open them.

Me: Yes.

Staff: (carts boxes to secure area out of sight)

And although we received them back barely closed and with a note inside that said “we had to open the box and are not responsible for damage,” everything was mostly OK. Nothing a bit of tape can’t fix, anyway.

In Wabush, things got just a little more interesting. Luckily, Wabush airport staff are all lovely and have a good sense of humour.

Staff: Put them up here and we’ll open them up and just swab them. What’s in these, anyway?

Me: Boxes.

(angry mechanical noise)

Staff: Ummm, that box has set off the alarm. Have you handled any explosives recently?

Here followed a long process where they asked me some questions about my life and work, completely unpacked both boxes of boxes, put all of the contents – and my carry-on luggage and my coat – through the x-ray, went through every pocket and leafed through every book in my carry-on, and then searched me. It was very thorough and hilarious, considering that the thing that had caused all the ruckus was a flattened cardboard box, but I had tons of time and everyone was pleasant. Apparently, the nearby mine throws off plenty of the stuff that sets off that alarm, and it’s not uncommon for any old thing to do it. Security and I were chatting away the whole time this went on, and I think I even told one of them it was nice to meet her before heading on my way.

And then, PAL took those boxes into checked luggage and they flew to St. John’s with me, to be loaded into a van and driven to Stephenville in the morning…

LabWest 2 set

The boxes that caused all the fuss.

Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre

Hello, Internet, today is Thursday, March 3rd, and yesterday we had just the most fabulous experience at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre.

After breakfast, we were picked up at our hotel and brought to the theatre, where we set about setting sound levels, running through lighting looks and reminding ourselves how we do the show in a theatre with the screen on the upstage wall.

Goose Bay 2 Levels 1

Evan meanders the stage while chatting with a video recording and several sound recordings, just so I can make sure I can hear everyone.

Around 1:30 pm, about 10 nursing students and probably 240 high school students poured into the gorgeous space that is that theatre (we were saying all day how much we love it and want to bring it home with us), and sat very quietly while Evan, Laura, Crystal and house technician/all-around-useful-person John made the show happen in front of them. The lights looked awesome (with special thanks to John on that one). The sound sounded great. By all reports, the audience was rapt.

(I say “by all reports” because I was hiding in the second dressing room, listening to the show – but only the bits of it that passed through the PA system – on program sound. I admit that, while I will never tire of watching this team work their magic, there is something profoundly stressful about sitting in, or behind, an audience watching a piece I’ve written and directed, and I prefer not to do it, generally. So the second dressing room was a perfect place for me.)

Today’s talk back was the first one we’ve ever done where we didn’t talk about mental health, beyond my directing the audience to their programs for a list of mental health resources. We did, however, get the chance to answer the question: “where did you get the idea for the boxes?”, which gave me the opportunity to praise our excellent designer, Mark Denine. Given that Jonathan has a well-kept collection of comic books, Mark – something of a comic aficionado himself – decided to build our lightweight, adaptable and generally extremely convenient set out of oversized comic book boxes.

Goose Bay 2 at theatre 1

In the midst of the gorgeous display in the lobby of the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre.

And then, Kathleen (Manager) and John Hicks (aforementioned useful person), who had already been driving us around for the better part of two days, rose to the occasion in the venue-we-like-best competition and LOANED US THEIR CAR. So we had to go on an adventure.

First stop was a gift-and-craft-type shop called Slippers ‘n Things, where we all narrowly avoided buying sealskin boots that definitely wouldn’t have fit in our luggage.

Goose Bay 2 boots

But look how gorgeous they all are!

…but we did each buy something that was easier to pack. And then, on John’s suggestion, we drove up to the Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club. We didn’t have time to ski, but we did get the grand tour, thanks to a very friendly and enthusiastic volunteer – one of several who run the place.

Goose Bay 2 ski lodge

Here it is from the outside…

Goose Bay 2 view 2

…and this is their view. Not bad at all.

We will be leaving a little piece of our collective heart in Happy Valley-Goose Bay today when we fly out, assuming the weather cooperates…