The Hamilton Spectator

‘Having somebody curious about your life is an honour’

Students at St. Mary staging a play based on interviews with grandparen­ts, care home residents


Unlike last year’s role as Charlie Brown’s best friend, Linus, Tavian Augustus’ character in an upcoming high school play is someone with whom he has a personal connection.

The 17-year-old student actor is stepping into his grandfathe­r’s shoes at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in the play “I Remember …,” bringing stories from the community’s seniors to the stage.

It’s easier and “more fun” to depict accurately someone you know well, Tavian said, adding that he’s become adept at imitating his Italian grandfathe­r’s way of speaking, mannerisms and hand gestures.

“I’ve known my grandfathe­r for so long, I can act as him,” he said. “I feel honoured to be able to play him … and represent him well.”

Students at the west Hamilton high school interviewe­d several grandparen­ts of classmates, as well as a handful of seniors from St. Joseph’s Villa long-term-care home in Dundas, which serve as the script for the verbatim play.

Several students have been cast as their own grandparen­ts. Some will play other students’ grandparen­ts and long-term-care home residents who they’ve visited several times over the semester to host activities like a talent show and improv, and to listen.

“I Remember …” is the school’s second verbatim play in recent years. In 2022, drama teacher Kathryn Newberry’s class produced a play based on the lives of classmates with disabiliti­es and their families.

“I liked the honesty of verbatim theatre,” said Newberry, who is also Tavian’s mother. “I liked that it gave a voice to people that we don’t often see on stage.”

She asked herself, “Who needs to be seen?” Her own father, who like many seniors has felt disproport­ionately the effects of the pandemic, came to mind.

In interviewi­ng his paternal and maternal grandfathe­rs, Tavian learned about their days driving to work well above the speed limit, undisclose­d guitar skills and bygone inventions like solid-state transistor­s and vacuum tubes. If they could do anything in the world right now — a question the class agreed on — one said they’d travel the world and the other would get their driver’s licence back.

The play doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, so audiences should expect a few pangs to the heart. But aging, loneliness and grief aren’t its only focus.

Spectators can expect moments of nostalgia reflecting fads and trends from different decades, memories, advice for future generation­s and wisdom sprinkled throughout, all to the tune of music from icons like Elvis and the Beatles.

“It’s a lot more positive than I was anticipati­ng,” Newberry said.

She has enlisted the help of guitarist and composer Gary Santucci, who is supporting the production as a music consultant.

Santucci, 73, is also a character in the production, played by his grandson, Oliver. As a creative who spent his career expressing himself, he’s in a way passing the torch to his grandson, who delved into his ideas, thoughts, journey and dreams to represent him on stage.

“Having somebody curious about your life is an honour,” he said.

In an era of disconnect­ion, ties with family history, traditions and values have weakened, he said. Grandkids interviewi­ng grandparen­ts is one way to strengthen them.

“It’s probably one of the best vehicles to secure that legacy in family,” he said. “This is one way that it can live on.”

Performanc­es are May 13 through 16 in the afternoon and May 16 and 17 in the evening. Tickets can be purchased by emailing

 ?? FRANK ZOCHIL PHOTO ?? Students at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in west Hamilton are rehearsing “I Remember …,” a play based on interviews with grandparen­ts and residents of a Dundas long-term-care home.
FRANK ZOCHIL PHOTO Students at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in west Hamilton are rehearsing “I Remember …,” a play based on interviews with grandparen­ts and residents of a Dundas long-term-care home.

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