An experiment in optimism

The importance of valuing young people, by addressing their hidden fears, is an idea Valerie Methot, executive director at Some Assembly Theatre company, supports. Methot, who overcame being an at-risk youth herself, presents the play The Wait List Experiment because she knows even today youth are not being taken seriously.

“We’re all unique individuals and we all have our different lives. But I recognize for at-risk youth, it’s a big struggle to live life with everything that they’re dealing with; and I know it makes a huge difference when they’re provided an opportunity to talk about what is important to them,”
says Methot.

The Wait List Experiment will be performed Apr. 29–May 3 at the Roundhouse
Performance Centre.

Starting with a conversation

Created by diverse Metro Vancouver youth, with playwright and director Methot, and several industry professionals, The Wait List Experiment is a play about eight diverse youth on wait lists to see therapists who are recommended for an experimental pandemic peer support group program that none of them want to go to.

Will they be able to work through their fears to see a brighter future ahead?

“It’s really quite a special gift to work on projects with young people and witness them getting empowered,” says Methot.

After a dear friend of hers passed away from AIDS, Methot focused her thesis project at UBC on developing an artistic methodology using theatre to work through trauma.

She took that same methodology and used it for working
with youth.

Actors Mitch Broome and Nghi Nguyen. | Photo courtesy of Some Assembly Theatre

“Theatre encompasses so many different artistic expressions and in The Wait List Experiment there is original live music, stunning visuals and costume designs – including masks the characters wear, the writing is quite strong and the acting is moving,” says Methot.

The play started with conversations Methot was having with diverse youth who were burdened by the pressure of trying to envision their future during a pandemic.

“For a lot of the young people I was talking to, the future seemed so pointless, and a lot of them were just trying to survive the day. I knew this production really needed to focus on that,” says Methot.

She began script research with about 60 diverse youth at various schools and alternative education centres, asking them what they needed to feel optimistic about their futures.

After sharing these conversations with her team of youth writers and getting their input, they realized the key to feeling optimistic about the future was to address the fears youth had stuck inside them, says Methot.

“If we understand what’s going on with young people it will help our communities become healthier and more supportive, because youth are the future,” she adds.

A great art form

“A lot of the time when we’re stuck in our fears, we’re not able to see around or ahead of us and that’s definitely what this play opens their eyes to,” says Methot.

When eight young people are recommended for an experimental pandemic peer support group program, they all try to run away from their fears.

Although the audience never sees their facilitator, Iris, they see a 36 ft wide, 16 ft tall eye.

The eye, part of the experimental process, shows how when we really look into someone’s eyes, we can see the truth about that person. When they’re ready to face their fears, the youth are pulled into it,
says Methot.

“That’s when their eyes can open and really see around them,” she explains.

Although the play grapples with serious subject matter, it’s also a comedy.

Listening to youth speak their truth is very moving, inspiring, funny and people are going to walk away from this just feeling better, says Methot.

By the end of the experiment none of the kids want to leave.

“The biggest change happens within each individual. Even with the pandemic going on, they found peace within themselves and connected with others; and I think that’s important for people to witness and experience especially with this never-ending pandemic,” says Methot.

The Wait List Experiment is a free play, with a 10-minute Q and A afterward. Vancouver Coastal Health counselors will be in attendance for anything audience members may need.

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