Valerie Methot is addressing youth issues through theatre with The Release Party, which will be presented by Some Assembly Theatre Company.
Methot tells a sad story about our youth. As described by her, young people today have to face many struggles, including issues with mental health and bullying as well as thoughts of suicide or self-harm. But, she adds, there is one answer: discuss these issues through theatre.
“Plays and theatre provide a great venue for young people to creatively express themselves with regards to important issues and to raise awareness,” says Methot, a theatre veteran who has a Master’s of Fine Arts and specializes in using plays to express traumatic events and issues. “It’s amazing and inspiring to watch the journey of young people who are doing this.”
The Release Party, a play created by Methot and other theatre professionals in collaboration with youth, will be playing from May 2 through to May 5 at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Admission is free, and audiences are invited to participate in talkback sessions after each performance.
A group writing process
Methot co-wrote The Release Party with a group of youth aged 14 to 19.
“Every youth wrote their own character,” explains Methot. “It was a group writing process. We had a contract that we all signed, and we got together every week and gave feedback.”
Cam Adriano, a young actor who performs in the production, enjoyed the writing sessions.
“My character is Rylan, a boy who tried to commit suicide,” Adriano says. “Originally, the character succeeded, but we all thought in group that this was something that should be changed.”
These issues sound serious, but Methot emphasizes that comedy is a big part of the play.
“I think you need lightness to balance the dark,” she clarifies. “The play is called The Release Party, and it is about a party, a celebration, with music and dancing. Every character has a chance to talk to people who can help.”
Adriano agrees with Methot.
“This is the first party that my character has ever been to, and so the play is about that, too,” he says.“He also plays the ukulele, [which] I learned while writing the part.”
Methot, who works closely with experienced youth counsellor Ken Lawson, hopes the play will help others who may be struggling with similar problems.
“We had a clinician come to the sessions to talk to us about suicide prevention,” comments Methot. “She said expressing yourself was really important, expression and music. Strings are good for your heart rate, too, as well as mental health. That’s why Rylan plays the ukulele.”
Hearing our own voices
The play is performed with a counsellor present, and a booth featuring health information brochures is on display. Thus far, the production has been well received by audiences.
“We’ve had people stand up in talkback sessions and say how they felt much less alone, seeing themselves and their issues represented on stage,” Methot says.
“People have really responded.”
Adriano adds that the play has been beneficial to himself as a youth.
“We have adult counsellors and information available in schools and elsewhere. But it’s important to hear our own voices too,” he says.
Methot and Adriano both comment that this experience has been an exciting and rewarding one. Methot is the co-founder, executive and artistic director of Some Assembly, the company who, along with the Roundhouse Youth Theatre Action Group, is responsible for the play. She notes that she loves her work.
“It’s meaningful to me as an adult, and a theatre professional, and also personally, as a mother, to provide guidance and help to youth. I’ve been doing it for 17 years, and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
Adriano is in agreement. He is a musician and a student at Vancouver Technical Secondary and very much enjoys acting.
“Theatre is something I throw myself into,” he says.
For more information, please see www.someassembly.ca.