See Performance Dates, Times and Locations below.
For the third year in a row, a troupe of rural teenaged performers will tour Lanark County and Smiths Falls with Burning Passions Theatre’s Listen Up! program that directly addresses some of the pressing issues faced by young people growing up in small towns.
The Invisible Boy, touring Lanark County and Smiths Falls high schools and community centres throughout April, was conceived and written by veteran playwright and director Laurel Smith alongside a teenaged troupe who contributed ideas and dialogue to the script. Featuring the up and coming talents of Ruby Davidson, Felix Evangelho, Ryan Kreissler, Connor Williamson, and James Kreissler, the show chronicles the challenges faced by young people who find themselves homeless in a region with no youth shelters and limited services.
While homelessness is very visible in urban centres, rural areas present a different face to the crisis that is often harder to see. Like other issues that have been tackled by the Listen Up! program of Burning Passions Theatre – from anxiety and gender identity to depression and suicide – the causes of youth homelessness are varied and, all too often, hidden from view.
“The troupe members share so much about what is going on in their lives and in the lives of their friends during the development process of the play, and sometimes, I have to shake my head and wonder how they get through day to day,” says Smith. “But they are incredibly creative and resilient. Their understanding of the topics in the plays really provides a visceral reality for audiences, who then have an opportunity to make comments or ask questions during a post-show talkback at each performance.”
A 2013 survey of Perth high school students conducted by local charity Cornerstone Landing found 25% of those questioned had experienced at least one night of homelessness; 8% reported five to seven incidents of homelessness. Sleeping rough in the bush, couch-surfing, and staying at all-night coffee shops are among the few options available to those without a permanent roof over their heads.
“People don’t talk about it because they don’t see it, but it’s more common than it should be,” says 15-year-old Felix Evangelho. “Sometimes kids get kicked out because their parents don’t accept that they’re trans or gay or lesbian. Sometimes there’s abuse, or drug problems, or just really low income.”
Troupe members compare the extensive efforts required to find temporary shelter to networking for a job, having to identify resources, allies, and services. “But there’s no resources on how to deal with the resources that actually are there,” says Ruby Davidson, also 15. “It’s complicated for people, and there’s no way to get there because there’s no transit.”
Evangelho agrees, adding, “Welfare may give you money for an apartment, but how do you do that if you’re 16 and you’ve never done it before? Will there be any money left over for food? How do I buy a bed? How do I get it back to my place? We haven’t been taught those life skills.”
Youth troupe members feel their work has the capacity to inspire dialogue and promote change. “We’re not only connecting to other youth, but also to parents and adults, spreading the word between people who need help and people who can help,” says 17-year-old performer Ryan Kreissler.
Listen Up! is presented in partnership with YAK Youth Services of Perth, and is supported by the Ontario Arts Council, Perth & District Community Foundation, Unifor Canada, the Basilian Human Development Fund, the Harry P. Ward Foundation, Civitan Clubs of Perth, Smiths Falls and Lanark Highlands, and the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. Thanks also to First Baptist Church and St. James Anglican Church of Perth.
Performance Dates, Times and Locations:
Friday April 7 at 7pm
YAK Youth Services
1 Sherbrooke Street East
Perth, ON, K7H 1A1
Wednesday April 19 at 7pm
Mississippi Mills Youth Centre
134 Main Street East
Almonte, ON, K0A 1A0
Thursday April 20 at 7pm
Carambeck Community Centre
351 Bridge Street
Carleton Place, ON, K7C 3H9
VILLAGE OF LANARK:
Friday April 21 at 6pm
Lanark Community Youth Centre
61 Princess Street
Lanark, ON, K0G 1K0