A diner threatened by corporate takeover. A group of youths determined to keep the place they see as an integral part of their community.
This is the setting of Home, a new and original play from the Some Assembly Arts Society that will be performed from May 3-6. Written and performed by youth, it is a piece that speaks for them, and one that is centred on the issues they feel are most important.
The production of Home is a fully original story written and staged by youth. It is set in a diner, a favourite hangout for many in the community, but one that is threatened by an outside force. The question posed by the play and its characters can be both simple and complex: what does a healthy society, and a healthy self, mean?
“That was the question we were all looking at,” says Valerie Methot, executive director of Some Assembly Arts Society, “and from that came all this great dialogue where everyone was sharing their ideas on what it can mean and what can get in the way of it.”
From there the play developed and Puzzles Diner, the hangout in question, was born. The diner was made to be its own small representation of a community, reflected through the “Diner Agreement” that all of its customers created to ensure it is a safe and comfortable space, another home. It’s a creative space, where everyone can express themselves. When the diner is threatened by a potential corporate takeover, the community comes together to save it, as the diner isn’t just a place to eat but a valuable piece of their community.
“This is about a community coming together,” says Methot, “the diner itself is called Puzzles because everyone fits into it in some way.”
A space of expression
Latisha Wadhams is one of the youth in the Home ensemble. A high school student in her first-ever production, she plays Nimpkish, a young First Nations woman who is one of the managers of the diner. As the show was created completely by the ensemble, the process began with reflection and workshopping.
“We did individual work at the start,” says Wadhams, “I thought about what my passions are, what I think a healthy self and society is, what I want to bring to the project. As a First Nations woman there was a lot I wanted to bring.”
From there everyone came together and shared their work, finding the connections between certain people as well as where the opposing ideas were.
“It’s a very collaborative process,” says Methot, “everyone shares feedback, everyone has a hand. There’s a lot of peer to peer: I believe in the power of that.”
For Wadhams, the process was a way to not only share and talk about things that are close to her, but also to bring it out onto the stage and share it with many more people.
“The topics I discuss are very personal to me,” says Wadhams. “In my everyday life you can’t bring it all into conversation. Nimpkish is a vehicle to discuss these things.”
Methot and all of the other adults at Some Assembly don’t only provide a space to create theatre, but also make sure that there’s support for those that need it, as the issues addressed in the making of the show can be difficult for some.
“At RHYTAG [the Roundhouse Youth Theatre Action Group] we go to the core of issues,” says Wadhams, “but I feel comfortable because I feel the support of Valerie and everyone in the company. Even though we all have our own issues, we all come back together. I love this program because I can bring what Nimpkish brings and not be judged.”
Created sixteen years ago by Methot, the Roundhouse Youth Theatre Action Group Project has provided a space of support, expression and dialogue to a diverse group of youth from throughout the Lower Mainland.
“I wanted to work with youth because I have a strong belief that they deserve a forum to be heard,” says Methot, “and I feel that theatre is an excellent way to express what’s important to them.”
For more information on Home and RHYTAG, visit www.someassembly.ca.