Sustaining Connections gatherings

Some of us didn’t know all the history of the other people in the group. We knew each other from either sitting on a different committee or living in the same building, but we didn’t know all the story. And it sort of cemented things, like, ‘Okay, now I understand why you walk this way on a certain day, or how you’re struggling or’… But because we’ve done it together, we’ve done the workshops, we’ve done the performances, when we do see each other together, then we’re able to, if necessary, cry on each other’s shoulder.

— Performer-advocate All of Us together.

We’ve been very moved by the connections and relationships that have been forged through TSDC performance creation workshops and performances. Sometimes, they’re extensions of pre-existing relationships. Sometimes, they’re new. But because TSDC was project-based (which meant we worked on one performance creation workshop series at a time), we had no existing infrastructure to maintain and nurture the community connections that were cultivated through the workshop and performance process. This also meant we were missing a valuable opportunity to build on the momentum of change that the performer-advocates set in motion through the plays they created. So, we decided to try something new.

I see that this project is a ball of snow that should be increased. There should be another level of this project in order to make the change. Therefore, I think there should be another level. Second, third, fourth and not stopping! A continuous process in order to make a change.” — Performer-advocate, When My Home is Your Business.

In August 2019, we sent an invitation to everyone who had performed in a TSDC play over the last 5 years “to come share some food, chat, and play a few theatre games.” We let folks know that we were currently not in a position to consider new performances or re-mounting performances we’ve already done, but that we wanted to explore how people might want to stay connected to the project. With no promises, just an invitation to gather, eat and explore together, we weren’t sure what to expect.

Within hours, RSVPs affirming participants’ desire to attend began rolling in. Good Shepherd generously offered to provide food and a space to gather. At our first meeting we collectively decided to get together for monthly Sustaining Connections gatherings throughout fall and open the group to invited guests. For our September meeting, we invited everyone to bring an object and consider the following prompt as preparation to share in a story circle:

prompt wand

Imagine what Hamilton might be like ten years from now if it were to become a much better City.

What do you imagine life would be like in that much better Hamilton for people with experiences like yours?

Please bring an object that will help you tell a 1 to 3 minute story about something a person with experiences like yours might do in a much better Hamilton 10 years from now. How would life be different for them?

At the gathering we held story circles and closed the evening with a group response round:

These are stories of people who…

Strive for justice, equal rights, and visibility
Are caring people who want all to have love and respect to be themselves
Care about the future
Are wise
See an inclusive society
Are resilient and powerful

In a City where…

There is potential
Change is afoot
Wisdom is rewarded
Everybody gets along
People support each other and no one is left out
People are treated with dignity, respect and of value

In October, we did some Image Theatre. One highlight was when participants staged an improvised tag-team soapbox speak-out in front ‘City Hall’ where they shared their passionate visions of what a better Hamilton would look like and what we might do to get there. In November Melanie Skene and Jennie Vengris led us in a zine-making exploration — a daring new venture for many/most of us! We concluded our fall gatherings with a December potluck that was as rich with offerings of spirit and conversation as it was with food and made plans to reconvene in the new year!

Two people working on a zine.

While everyone seemed to enjoy getting together and the open-ended explorations, the participants also voiced their desires to perform again. With this in mind, we brought scripts from all the TSDC plays to our first gathering of 2020 and began looking for connections between the plays. The group decided to spend our next three to four meetings using the same methods we had in the workshops, to see if we could come up with a story arc for a new performance.

Then came the pandemic, and so, we did what so many have done, we went virtual…


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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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