How an innovative Edmonton theatre company hopes to change the way we view mental illness and addictions

May 1, 2018

The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble by Beth Graham - November 6-23, 2014 at The Roxy Theatre. Photo credit: Ian Jackson/EPIC Photography

 

The Morris Foundation is supporting this effort in a co-creative relationship to create a new Canadian dramatic work that centers around the lives of those living with schizophrenia. 

 

"We produce contemporary theatre with an emphasis on Canadian playwrights and stories," says Edmonton's Theatre Network Artistic Director Bradley Moss. "We're also dedicated to producing work that is challenging and engaging, and isn't afraid to challenge our conceptions of the world we live in." 

 

 

With a focus on Canadian playwrights, Edmonton plays, and local artists, Theatre Network provides the city of Edmonton and its communities with accessible and thought-provoking performances that enrich minds and improve quality of life.
 

Theatre Network also hosts the emerging artist festival, Nextfest, and presents live performances from established and burgeoning theatre companies from around Alberta. The dedication to artists and risk-taking performances has helped Theatre Network become a vital hub in the Edmonton arts community for more than 40 years.

 

 

The Schizophrenia Project

 

Moss says that he had become aware of the devastating outcomes associated with schizophrenia when a friend was afflicted with the disease. "There is so much misunderstanding and stigma associated with it, as with many mental illnesses," he says, "and knowing how effective live theatre is at dismantling stereotypes and building understanding and tolerance, we decided we wanted to address the issue head-on with a show." 

 

Research shows that the social stigma associated with mental illness, and schizophrenia in particular, is one of the main reasons those afflicted either delay seeking help, or never do. 

 

Moss and his Business Development Director Jill Roszell reached out to the Morris Foundation to see if a legacy could be established that would begin with such a play, but would continue with other Canadian artist-developed shows over time--all focused on helping us better understand our human condition, in all its forms. 


"We wanted to not just do one project, but ensure a long term base of support for projects that help raise awareness of the struggles of living with mental illness and addictions," Jill says. "These issues are a huge part of our society today, and we need to do more than just find solutions; we need to understand their impact, not just on society, but on individuals. And we know there are thousands of stories to draw upon out there."

 

For that, they entered into a three-way partnership with the Morris Foundation and the Edmonton Community Endowment. Fueled by the grant from Morris, they have created an endowment which will grow, and from which they can draw as a long-term resource to commission new shows. 

 

Getting real

 

Involving in the community of those living with schizophrenia and their caregivers in the play development process is one unique factor in the process Edmonton Theatre will use for this project. "We need it to be real, regardless of creative license that a playwright might take with a story," Moss says. "And to do that, we have to access the lived and observed experience of those closest to it."

 

This means community members will be invited to participate in the development of the play with its author and the team through workshops and rehearsals.

 

The subject is very real to Morris Foundation founder, Wendy Morris, who lost her brother Vernon to complications from the disease. The play will be dedicated to her brother. 

 

On the road

 

"We fully intend the play to be something that can travel, and not only be seen and experienced in Edmonton," Moss says. "For a society to update its attitudes and knowledge, it's important that shows like this seek as wide an audience as possible."

 

"We're so grateful to the Morris Foundation for giving us this opportunity," Moss added. "This really is what we do best, and now we have a chance to create a significant body of work over time and involve a number of Canadian playwrights to address some of our society's most important issues."

 

 

Visit Theatre Network at theatrenetwork.ca

 


and consider contributing to the new legacy endowment for future productions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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