Mixed Company Theatre is collaborating with our Associate Artist playwright Catherine Frid to research, develop and eventually tour an original and new stage play about the complex and neglected subject of seniors and suicide.
We will be developing the project initially through conversations and workshops with older adults whose lives have been impacted by depression, suicide, or Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).
This project aims to open conversations on these topics and help people find new ways to support one another and communicate about these often-taboo subjects.
The final piece will be a Forum Theatre play – an interactive, participatory form of theatre where audience members have the opportunity to step up on stage to enact ways to address the issue presented. We are aiming for this final play, which will be performed by professional actors, to catalyze dialogue, discussion, and action to support seniors and their mental health.
Seniors 65 years and older have one of the highest rates of suicide in Canada, particularly men. It’s not as publicized as youth suicides, but is just as important. It’s also true that older men are much more likely to die through a suicide attempt than any other group, in part because they have access to more lethal means (prescription medication). Seniors, especially those in residential care, suffer high rates of depression (44%) and loneliness. (Please see links below for the sources of these statistics.)
Catherine first began exploring this subject when she wrote a play about hope and resilience, AfterWhys, for the Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin. AfterWhys focused on rural stigma and community support, and has been well received.
Some additional avenues Catherine will be exploring in Hope and Resilience in Action with MCT are the distinctions between MAID and senior suicide, as well as the challenges created by Canada’s diversity, urban loneliness and isolation, lack of family support, and now pandemic anxiety, which strains mental health.
“Seniors & Suicide – Starting the Conversation with the AfterWhys Play”
The theatre creation approach outlined in the below video, “Seniors & Suicide – Starting the Conversation with the AfterWhys Play,” was pioneered by the Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin and Catherine Frid. The development process Catherine devised for AfterWhys recognized the taboo nature of suicide for some people, ensured all participants were respected and their stories remained confidential. Catherine will be using a similar approach for “Hope and Resilience in Action.”
Community Participation Process
We are hoping to connect with GTA-based older adults (aged 55+), provide a space for them to confidentially share their experiences with these topics, and explore them through theatre games. These stories and workshop discoveries will form the basis of the play Catherine will write so participants will be able to see their insights/contributions reflected in the universal story that will be created for the final piece. Below are the steps of the process community members will be invited to participate in. There is no expectation that participants will continue with each step and they can choose to leave the process at any time and have their stories withdrawn.
- You will have a confidential phone or video conversation with Catherine to share your story. Catherine will write the story as a narrative that’s as anonymous as you wish.
- You will be invited to participate in online Forum Theatre workshops led by Catherine and MCT’s Artistic Director, Simon Malbogat. The anonymous narratives will be shared with the groups and form the basis for group discussion and theatrical games to create a ‘universal story’.
- You will be invited back to watch professional actors do a first reading of the script and you can offer suggestions to Catherine to improve the play.
- After Catherine addresses the suggestions from the first reading into a final script, you will be invited to attend one of the performances in the tour to see your contributions reflected in the final piece!
On April 19th our MCT team and Catherine Frid did a Facebook Live Q&A to talk about the project – click the link below to watch the video!
Facebook Live Event: https://www.facebook.com/MixedCTheatre/videos/1296200387444413
Contact us to learn more about the project and how you could get involved!