One-man play coming to Shelburne July 15
Getting to Room Temperature tackles fear of death with humour, sensitivity
Getting to Room Temperature addresses the complex issue of dying with dignity.
But if this one-man play sounds morbid, Robert Bockstael insists it’s anything but.
Bockstael, whose many film, stage and television credits include the ’90s TV series North of 60, stars in this one-man play, written, produced and directed by Arthur Milner. The play chronicles Milner’s emotional journey while coming to terms with his mother’s end-of-life wishes.
In the play, Bockstael portrays Milner reflecting on his own life and the lives of his parents. During a doctor’s visit, Milner’s 93-year-old mother asked her doctor to help her die.
When the doctor refused, Milner’s mother turned to her son. “She had really found herself failing,” recalls Bockstael. “She really felt that her time was up. She said, ‘I don’t need this anymore.’”
Milner’s mother asked to travel to Switzerland so that she could undergo assisted suicide. Milner agreed to look into it, but struggled with his conflicting thoughts and emotions.
“(The play) is the story of his journey through this process of discovery, about what the situation is in this country with assisted dying,” Bockstael says.
While this might sound like a deeply sad or upsetting story, Bockstael is quick to point out that humour is ever-present throughout the play.
“Arthur is a very funny writer. He has a very keen insight into the human condition. There’s no holds barred, as far as laughter is concerned. Some evenings, with some audiences, I feel a bit like a standup comic up there. A lot of the laughter is of acknowledgment. Everyone has commonality with this.”
After the show, a questionand-answer session is held, often with special guests present. “On average, 75 per cent or more (of the audience) stay and talk,” Bockstael says. “We have had some of the most extraordinary conversations with people, as a group, with people telling their stories to the group.”
Death is shrouded in fear in our modern-day society, where life can be prolonged beyond a person’s wishes, and dying is not ever-present in most people’s lives. The play opens up a safe place for people to speak about the subject.
“We celebrate youth, but we don’t celebrate age and wisdom anymore. We’re kind of becoming ageists and so we hide our elders away and we warehouse them in these places for other people to take care of them,” Bockstael reflects.
“Whereas just a generation ago, we would take our parents into our homes and take care of them until they died. And so we were face-to-face with our own mortality and everything that goes along with it. Now every-
one’s afraid of all that.”
Getting to Room Temperature addresses these fears head-on. “We are encouraging people to know their own mind before this stuff gets to the point where they can no longer speak for themselves,” Bockstael says. “It’s a really important discussion. A lot of people are afraid of it but when they do get into the theatre, they realize there’s nothing scary going on there and we’re all having a good time.
“Arthur is a tremendous storyteller, so it’s a very compelling series of stories that he tells in a really lovely way. It’s a very enjoyable evening out, as well as a lively discussion of current events.”
The self-produced show premiered in Montreal a few years ago and has had runs in Toronto, Ottawa and across the country. But getting theatres to host the play has been challenging because of its subject matter, Bockstael believes.
Julie Stewart, best known for her starring role in the Canadian TV series Cold Squad, worked with Bockstael on North of 60. Stewart is friends with both Bockstael and Milner.
After Stewart moved to Shelburne, she came up with the idea of bringing Getting to Room Temperature to Shelburne.
The result: Getting to Room Temperature is coming to Shelburne on Sunday, July 15. The play starts at 7 p.m. in the Christ Church Parish Hall, located at 29 Ann St. in Shelburne. Tickets cost $15 at the door and $12 in advance.
To buy tickets, contact Stewart at 416-802-4471 or email@example.com.
Robert Bockstael is shown in a scene from Getting to Room Temperature, coming to Shelburne’s Christ Church Parish Hall at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 15. The slide in the background shows playwright Arthur Milner’s mother, Rose.