The annual Listen Up youth theatre troupe will once again tour Lanark County and Smiths Falls youth centres and schools in April with a new play about body image, The Strangest Dream.
The fifth installment of the annual event – whose previous productions have focused on depression and anxiety, the effects of teen suicide on a community, youth homelessness, and sexual harassment and assault – features returning troupe members Felix Evangelho, Ryan Kreissler and Lu Williams, with newcomer Isaac Sinfield.
Written by Laurel Smith based on research and conversations with young people and in consultation with the Hopewell Centre – Eastern Ontario’s only clinic dedicated to working with those dealing with eating disorders – the show is being staged at a time when teenagers especially face a barrage of images in print and electronically that make them question their self-worth and can lead to harmful behaviours.
“In addition to all the expectations we place on young people, the social pressure to conform to looking a certain way can have devastating impacts,” says Smith. “While this is certainly not a new thing – we know eating disorders have been with us for a long time – it is magnified by the 24/7 access we now have to a bombardment of visual images and voices that get into our heads and tell us to look and act and feel a certain way.”
The Listen Up! project has served as an inspiration for inter-generational dialogue over the past four years, with parents and adult community members taking part in post-show feedback discussions with teenagers.
“It has opened the eyes of a lot of people who aren’t always as well connected to what is happening in the world of young people as they could be,” says Smith, who notes that young people in rural eastern Ontario face many challenges, not least of which are long waiting lists for a number of services to meet the needs of the teen population. “Through theatre, we tell stories that we hope will provoke the kind of discussion needed to hear what young people’s lives are really like and hopefully to generate the kinds of changes they need to live healthy lives.”
The play tours throughout Lanark County on the following dates: Wed. Apr. 17 at 4:30pm, WAK, Smiths Falls Youth Arena,
71A Lansdowne Street, Smiths Falls
Thurs. Apr. 18 at 6:00pm, Carambeck Community Centre, 351 Bridge Street, Carleton Place
Wed. Apr. 24 at 5pm, Mississippi Mills Youth Centre, 134 Main St. E., Almonte
Thurs. Apr. 25 at 6:30pm, Royal Canadian Legion, 26 Beckwith St. E., Perth;
Fri. Apr. 26 at 6pm, Lanark Highlands Youth Centre, 61 Princess St., Village of Lanark.
For further information call 613-264-8088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.