The global #MeToo and #TimesUp movements receive a local interpretation in April as Burning Passions Theatre presents a new play, Every Friday, that will tour local youth centres and schools in Lanark Highlands, Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place, and Almonte.
The play, written and directed by Laurel Smith, based on stories created by Mary Cowan, Ruby Davidson, Felix Evangelho, Ryan Kreissler, Winston Mavraganis, and Lu Williams, is an exploration of the experiences of a group of youth who come together to share their stories of survival in a violent world. Given the mature subject matter, it is recommended for ages 14+.
“For lots of reasons, many people still have trouble understanding concepts like trust and consent, which are at the heart of so many #MeToo stories. We want to show how these issues play out in real situations,” explains Smith, who notes that the play, Every Friday, is the fourth installment of the annual Listen Up! touring theatre project that addresses issues affecting rural teenagers. “To hear terms like assault, abuse and harassment without their full context can be distancing. By presenting characters who share their own journeys of survival, we hope to reconnect audiences to the very real emotions and effects of these terms.”
Each performance will be followed by a talkback session in which audience members can dialogue with the actors and playwright.
“This play is very important to me because it’s a huge problem, and is becoming even more relevant today as social media and people in power are portraying victims as liars,” says Grade 12 student Mary Cowan. “I believe everyone has a right to be believed. This play also gives the message to adults and teenagers alike that there is help, but it is also okay to not be okay.”
For Ryan Kreissler, who has acted in previous Listen Up! projects, Every Friday is “a great opportunity to learn about topics that aren’t often discussed anywhere else. The plays we create are always informative, and they’re great for spreading awareness of an issue and explaining how to get help.”
Grade 11 student Ruby Davidson agrees, noting “it is my goal for our shows to help in the community and spread awareness for the important issues that are not talked about enough in Lanark County.”
“This is a great opportunity to spread a positive message,” says PDCI student Winston Mavraganis. “Access to a platform where people’s voices can be heard is a luxury not everyone is afforded.”
As part of the play’s creation, group members will be meeting with renowned Governor-General’s Award-winning anti-violence consultant Julie Lalonde, a frequent media source on issues of violence against women whose work has appeared on Al Jazeera, CBC’s The National, TVO’s The Agenda, Vice, WIRED magazine and FLARE, among others.
Every Friday plays in Perth on Tuesday April 17 at 5pm at YAK (1 Sherbrooke Street East), at the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (134 Main Street East) on Thursday April 19 at 5pm, at Lanark Community Youth Centre (61 Princess Street) on Friday April 20 at 6pm, and at the Smiths Falls Community Centre (71 Cornelia Street) on Friday April 27 at 4:30pm. Admission is by donation, with no one turned away for lack of funds.