Community play represents local stories of mental health struggles

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Local mental health experiences will be discussed in an upcoming multimedia stage play.

Charlotte County Shares Hope is producing Riding the Waves in partnership with the St. Croix Theatre Company Inc. and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The multimedia play will share the stories of 14 locals and their personal struggles with mental health. Some mental illnesses represented include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-partum depression, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The play will be performed in Saint Andrews at the W.C. O’Neill Arena Complex on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, and at St. Stephen High School Oct. 14 and 15.

“We’ve got a full cast of people from across Charlotte County,” said co-director and writer Peggy Fothergill. Many community members auditioned, some being turned away due to high numbers and limited roles.

“Some are experienced, and some are brand new – and keen,” said Fothergill. The diverse cast shares the interest and passion for the subject matter. “There’s a wonderful sparkle.”

Fothergill wrote the stage play alongside Christine Lannaman and Suzanne Tisdale. Heather Heath approached the trio; Heath had written a play before and wanted to see a dramatic representation of the subject matter.

“We were inspired to do it because we care,” said Fothergill. Fothergill, Lannaman, and Bert Deveau will co-direct the play.

“We’re a team,” said Fothergill.

The team sat down with people within the community spending upwards of 45 minutes with each person, hearing their story. It was important to the creators that the stories shared were of people within their direct community.

Riding the Wave will feature a video aspect, making it a multimedia production. Recent high school graduate Ian Curran and 16-year-old Maddie Gowan have been working on the video portion of the play, which will feature the story of one community member.

“We wanted to have something with a modern sensibility,” said Fothergill.

Also apart of the production team is former ballet dancer Susan Smith taking on movement coaching and Lisa Cheney with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In the end, the goal of the play is to be uplifting and to leave the audience with hope, not dread. It’s meant to foster awareness and show the resilient stories of neighbours, leaving the audience with hope.

“What these folks showed us is they’re living with it. They’re coping, doing well,” said Fothergill.

At some point in their lives, everyone feels the impact of mental health struggles, whether in your own life or someone you know.