The­atre mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

Re­gional li­brary, men­tal health group to ben­e­fit from pro­duc­tion

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS / ENTERTAINMENT - Ken Chisholm Ken Chisholm lives in Syd­ney and has writ­ten plays, songs, re­views, mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles. He can be reached at the­cen­ter­isle@gmail.com.

A Shake­speare in the Park pro­duc­tion made its way to the North­side Guest Home a few years ago with some suc­cess.

“Af­ter the show, one of the or­ga­niz­ers came up to me and ex­plained that (an) au­di­ence mem­ber was a for­mer English pro­fes­sor who was now con­fined to a wheel­chair,” said stage direc­tor Bon­nie Ma­cLeod. “Their mind was as sharp as ever, but phys­i­cally they hadn’t been able to go the the­atre in years. The thought of mak­ing an im­pact, even for one per­son, re­ally stayed with me.”

With that proof of the ef­fect the­atre can have, Ma­cLeod, the artis­tic direc­tor of Her Voice The­atre is bring­ing a stage pro­duc­tion of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity” to the McCon­nell Li­brary.

The pro­duc­tion is be­ing held in part­ner­ship with the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Li­brary and the lo­cal chap­ter of the Ox­ford ReLit Foun­da­tion. The three per­for­mances are slated for Nov. 24-26, 7 p.m. each night, as a fundraiser for the two groups.

“I have done other men­tal health ad­vo­cacy work in the com­mu­nity — such as or­ga­niz­ing the Freak­show Va­ri­ety Show which raised funds for Path­ways to Em­ploy­ment and Cross­roads Club­house,” Ma­cLeod ex­plains.

“I came up with the idea for this project when work­ing with Dr. Julie Suther­land on an­other bib­lio­ther­apy ini­tia­tive help­ing to dis­trib­ute copies of ReLit’s po­etry an­thol­ogy to men­tal health or­ga­ni­za­tions and health-care providers.

“I ap­proached Ros­alie Gillis and Lind­say Thomp­son about in­volv­ing the (re­gional li­brary) and they were very en­thu­si­as­tic,” Ma­cLeod re­calls. “Bib­lio­ther­apy in a nut­shell is ‘read­ing for well-be­ing,’ so com­ing up with a project that would sup­port the work of our re­gional li­brary seemed like a no-brainer.”

Ma­cLeod notes li­braries sup­port in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness in many ways, “They pro­vide free ac­cess to self-help re­sources, com­mu­nity pro­gram­ming, com­put­ers and in­ter­net; be­cause a lot of in­for­ma­tion is only avail­able on the in­ter­net and not every­body has their own cell­phone or com­puter to ac­cess it.

“I also wanted to sup­port se­nior men­tal health in our com­mu­nity. So for this project I ap­proached the North­side Guest Home again, and also the MacGillivray Guest Home, where my own grand­mother is a res­i­dent. The recre­ation co­or­di­na­tors from both fa­cil­i­ties have been a huge sup­port to the project,” Ma­cLeod said.

“We also re­ceived sup­port from Com­mu­ni­ties, Cul­ture and Her­itage Nova Sco­tia. Bring­ing all the mov­ing parts to­gether and es­pe­cially per­form­ing the show at the nurs­ing homes wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble with­out that.

“I chose ‘Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity’ be­cause it is a text used in bib­lio­ther­apy courses,” Ma­cLeod says about the play. “The two main char­ac­ters are sis­ters who han­dle their emo­tions very dif­fer­ently. Eli­nor pushes hers down, locks them away so she can fo­cus on the prac­ti­cal things she needs to do for her fam­ily. Mar­i­anne is the op­po­site and lives to feel, even if some­times it over­whelms her.”

Ma­cLeod says the adap­ta­tion by Kate Hamill they are us­ing high­lights the hu­mour and ac­tion in the story but re­mains faith­ful to the heart of text as well as fea­tur­ing strong and di­verse roles for women.

The cast fea­tures Lind­say Thomp­son and Gena Di­flavio as Eli­nor and Mar­i­anne with Sandy An­thony, Ni­cole MacDougall, Josie Sobol, Maura Lea Mo­rykot, Shealyn Varnes, Bob Le­wandowski, JonJon Collins, Wayne McKay, Adam

Young and Philip Boudreau.

“We’ve been re­hears­ing since Au­gust. It’s been a very col­lab­o­ra­tive process, with ev­ery­one pitch­ing in to help with the pro­duc­tion side of things. It’s been re­ally pos­i­tive, lots of laughs — I think ev­ery­one is en­joy­ing the fact that it is for a good cause,” Ma­cLeod ob­serves.

“Do­ing the­atre in an al­ter­na­tive space like the li­brary or a nurs­ing home al­ways presents some chal­lenges — where does the ‘stage’ be­gin and end, how do we come up with a set that func­tions but can also come apart and go in the back of car. But chal­lenges are what force us to be cre­ative. I love that.”

As a fi­nal thought, Ma­cLeod said, “See­ing the arts com­mu­nity, the li­brary, the men­tal health and the se­nior care com­mu­ni­ties all come to­gether is in­spir­ing. Some­times when we are fac­ing chal­lenges — like look­ing at a 13-month wait time to ac­cess men­tal health re­sources — we get dis­cour­aged and over­whelmed. So tak­ing some ac­tion, get­ting in­volved and be­ing around other peo­ple who are will­ing to try to make a change, make some­thing hap­pen — it’s re­ally good for the spirit, it makes me more hope­ful.”

HER VOICE THE­ATRE COM­PANY/CON­TRIB­UTED

Lind­say Thomp­son copes with the many emo­tional dra­mas of her char­ac­ter in Her Voice The­atre Com­pany’s pro­duc­tion of Jane Austen’s “Sense And Sen­si­bil­ity,” a fundraiser for the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Li­brary and the ReLit Foun­da­tion. The pro­duc­tion can be seen at the McCon­nell Li­brary, Nov. 24-26.

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