Expanding community networks part one: Notre Dame House School

That performance should have been something mandatory to watch. I know it sounds a little pretentious, but I think it’s something mandatory to see.

— Performer-advocate, Choose Your Destination. 

With the bittersweet blessings of the play’s past performer-advocates, we began to explore the possibility of re-mounting a version of Choose Your Destination with a new group of youth. In our discussions we identified two issues that we felt needed to be addressed:

  • How to ensure that youth who were new to the project were also given an opportunity to contribute as co-creators.
  • How to provide the youth with a stable (or stable-enough) infrastructure to support them through a 12 to 15 week performance creation workshop process.

Since TSDC scripts are not constructed of rigidly prescribed dialogue we felt comfortable with the idea of using the original play as a starting point. Through the workshop activities, we could introduce the youth to performance-based skills while also exploring their ideas and experiences to see how they would fit with the play’s characters and themes. Scenes, dialogue, and characters could be adapted or added.

Based on what we had come to know about the barriers to participation that precarious circumstances create for some of the youth we worked with in Choose Your Destination, we realized providing a stable-enough infrastructure meant deepening and expanding our community networks. In conversations with our community partners at Good Shepherd, we talked about how we could use the creation of Choose Your Destination2 as an opportunity to explore putting more sustainable structures into place. We met with teachers from Good Shepherd’s Notre Dame House School, Katie Friscolanti and Domenic Riverso, and started hashing out details of how we could integrate the performance creation workshop process into their curriculum. We hosted information sessions for interested students and were setting into motion a plan to launch our first workshop series with youth from the school in the fall of 2020. We had also begun conversations with Naomi Brun and Erica Conly from the Hamilton Public Library, about the possibility of presenting the play at the library and leveraging library resources to support the youth.

Then (familiar refrain) along came COVID.

The potential advantages of integrating TSDC workshops into Notre Dame House School are as numerous as they are valuable! Offering TSDC workshops in the context of the school:

  • Provides youth with opportunity to receive high school credit for their work.
  • Ensures an experienced teacher who is knowledgeable about the students’ lived experiences is available during and between workshops.
  • Extends youths’ learning experience through classroom assignments linked to the play.
  • Provides support for youth to process their workshop experiences through in-class discussions, teacher-student meetings, and assignments.
  • Creates opportunities for youth who don’t wish to perform to participate in prop and set design or the design of promotional materials for the play.
  • Provides workshop facilitators with consistent access to the invaluable knowledge-based reflections of an experienced teacher who is familiar with the students’ lived experiences.

Another one to file under the category, Things we set in motion, were unable to complete, but still hope to do one day!


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Transforming Stories, Driving Change Copyright © by Helene Vosters, Catherine Graham, Chris Sinding is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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