Swetha: We first got involved with SCHC a few years ago when we were doing a tour of an interactive (Forum Theatre) production called OLD AGE AIN’T FOR SISSIES. SCHC hosted the presentation which addressed the many challenges faced by seniors and the realities of aging in a fast paced, culturally diverse city. We were amazed to see the energy, the sense of initiative and curiosity that the audience brought to the dialogue that ensued. We have been friends with SCHC ever since!
Can you tell me how this program project started, and why you wanted to collaborate with SCHC?
Swetha: This project was started in response to the ongoing pandemic and how it has been impacting the senior community. It was also initiated in order to address an increased sense of isolation and loneliness among seniors, risk factors for the development of depression and cognitive impairment.
Mixed Company Theatre’s community projects use fun, interactive, and relaxed theatre games, exercises, and performance to help communities address challenges they may be experiencing in their everyday lives. In 2020, we developed an interactive digital model for our community-engaged theatre programming and we discovered that community participants found that it was helping them to develop personal connections with others, and share stories about their unique experiences and challenges during the pandemic. So we connected with SCHC and other partners working with seniors to determine if a virtual theatre-based project addressing mental health among seniors in the context of the pandemic would be of value to the community. We were so glad to hear that seniors at SCHC were interested in stepping forward to talk about these complex topics and stories. Thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility through their Senior Community Grant program, we were able to realize this project, and were welcomed into your community once again.
How was your overall experience with this program, was there any challenges for getting others on board? Was there any stand out memories from either team members or program participants?
Luciano: We're about two-thirds of the way through - having just gathered and created a great deal of material which we will turn into a first draft of our script for the next workshop session. Though we started with a smaller group than hoped for, the core group of five members have been so imaginative, committed to the project, and supportive of the issue from the start. I am impressed by the way they all wish to share and contribute to improving their community through the use of Forum Theatre.
I will always remember how excited they became when they realized how well they can write a poem or verse when 'forced' into a five-minute time frame! I think they never fully believed or appreciated what good artists they are or could be. This project is allowing them to see themselves in a new light.
What do you want people to know about this program?
Swetha: We want people to know that this project celebrates seniors’ voices. And therefore, the final theatre presentation will be performed for the public on March 25th and March 31st from 10 am to 11:30 am!
The senior participants are presenting an interactive, Forum Theatre play they created about the increased anxiety, frustration, and depression that seniors have been experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Details: March 25 & 31, 2021 | 10 AM - 11:30 AM (ET)
Online via Zoom | Tickets are Free
Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/covid-concerns-registration-145558404105
We hope you can join us in the audience! In the first half of this play, you will see how the senior characters in the story become overwhelmed by technology, fears of contracting COVID-19, and finding the support they need.
Then, the story will be presented again - only this second time, you will have the opportunity to intervene in the action! You will be invited to step on to the virtual stage (Zoom!) to try out strategies for positive change, thereby catalyzing discussion, dialogue and action!
The performance is being created by, for, and about the seniors – and we welcome all seniors and staff who are curious about conversations around mental wellbeing to attend!
What do you wish other people knew about SCHC?
Swetha: We have had such a wonderful time working with SCHC and we want people to know the immense commitment, dedication, and professionalism that SCHC staff and community offer to support the projects they take on.
Was there anything you would like to add?
Swetha: If you would like to read more about the interactive style of theatre called Forum Theatre we use, go to https://mixedcompanytheatre.com/forum-theatre/. And we hope to see you at the final event later this March!