Naomi Tessler

Unearthing Stories, Harvesting Community

Our final summer show we were all set up at Ken Ross Park on the deck of the community house-prepared for any weather at all, we were simply waiting eagerly for our audience members to arrive. We weren’t sure who was going to come or how many people were going to come, we just hoped we would have enough people so we could play their stories back.

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The actors in our Playing Back Our Neighbourhood Stories youth ensemble and I did a circle around the play structure, inviting young families to join us and when we returned to our performance space, the audience members had begun to trickle in. I felt relieved and the actors felt nervous.

Our show began with opening remarks made by MPP lisa Macleod who spoke about the spirit of Barrhaven and how pleased she was to see youth engaged in the arts in the community.

The audience warmed up to sharing their stories slowly but once they got into it, we heard a beautiful tapestry of colourful Barrhaven tales.

We heard stories about discovering the neighbourhood and being proud to live in a peaceful, active community. Stories about elders getting lost and being supported by community members and local police who went out of their way to ensure their fellow community member got home safely.

We heard stories about Barrhaven street parties, community coming together and growing stronger in the wake of tragedy.

Our youth ensemble listened to each story with full heart and soulfully played them back. The audience was deeply impressed by their intuitive responses and their innate improvisation skills.

Once the actors got going, they went full speed and pulled out fantastic punch lines and had the courage to deepen their physical expression.

During the technique: rant, the actors passionately ranted about the kinds of changes the audience members would like to see in their community. The actors love this technique and it was clear by the way their expressions and actions grew in intensity and connection to the audience’s story and truly captured the essence of their experience. One rant about traffic went so well that Counselor Michael Quaqish responded “these are the comments I get on my desk everyday!” We were grateful he joined us in our audience and great to know these concerns are being heard.

Our performance closed with audience members sharing that our show instilled a deep sense of: community, wanting to connect with each other, hope, diversity and pride about living in Barrhaven.

It was a positive experience for all involved and the actors were thrilled to have the support of their community behind them.

The BBQ supported by: Darryl Bartraw, Emily Veryard, Joe Veryard and Eric Seizew was a wonderful way to end our event. New connections were made and the whole audience enjoyed good food and great people.

Our raffle prize winners were thrilled to take home their special gifts from: Bella photography, Bows and Tiaras or Braves Haven. We are truly grateful for their contributions to our project!

It has been an incredible journey performing for the Barrhaven community this summer. Our youth ensemble has grown so much in their skills and in their self-confidence!

We thank the Nepean Housing Corporation, Farm Boy, Braces Haven, Bows & Tiarras, Bella Photography, Darryl Bartraw, Barrhaven BIA, AOE Arts Council, Neighbourhood Arts 150, Emily Veryard and all our volunteers for making our final summer show and community bbq a huge success: bringing out the stories of Barrhaven and bringing community together.

It was bittersweet as the ensemble said goodbye to each other at the August 19th show as some of the group will have too much school work to take part in the fall session.  However we are excited to welcome new actors to our ensemble in our fall session beginning September 19th.

We look so forward to sharing our final show, which will weave together all the stories of Barrhaven we heard this summer on:

Tuesday, October 24th, 7pm, Barrhaven Community House-16 Kilbarron rd.

We hope to see you there!







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