Community Living taking centre stage at the Playhouse

Actor Chris McPherson, centre, joins Claude Plamondon, and Lisa Joiner, day support workers, in music for a skit.

MORRISBURG – “We are ecstatic to be here at the Playhouse and to be doing this,” said Claude Plamondon, day support worker at Community Living in Morrisburg. “It’s a real chance for members of the group to come out of their shells, to realize, ‘I can do this.’”

Since March of this year, clients of Morrisburg’s Community Living have been meeting weekly at Upper Canada Playhouse to take part in a very special interactive theatre program, that they call Community Living on Stage at the Playhouse, created by Mary Ellen Viau. She also runs the Playhouse senior drama school program. Viau and the participants have the full support of artistic director Donnie Bowes.

“Donnie and I had chatted about a project like this for about a year,” Viau said, at the end of the Thursday morning, May 3, workshop in the Playhouse rehearsal hall.

“Finally we took our concept of a special theatre program to Debbie Boardman, executive director of Community Living and Brenda Laviolette, director of supports and services, and they agreed to back it.”

Donnie Bowes opened up all the Playhouse facilities to Viau, including the use of the Upper Canada stage itself.

Since its start in March, members of Community Living and support staff have been to the Playhouse once a week to take part in some “wonderful theatre experiences,” as Bowes put it.

Viau’s program created a one hour workshop for each of the Playhouse sessions built around specific themes. Among these themes were the Circus, Noah and the Ark, the Seasons, and the Campfire.

She brought special costumes and props for each session (including some great and popular puppets) and created different settings for the ‘plays.’ Claude Plamondon also brought his guitar with him and provided music and songs tied into each of these ‘themes’.

“This is a very tactile experience,” Viau explained. “I layer the actions so that much of what happens in the workshops is a natural response to questions and movement. By the end of each hour, we create a little play that reflects our theme.”

Right from the start the program was greeted with enthusiasm from the participants.

“A huge group came to take part right from that first session,” Bowes said.

“They immediately jumped in to do things, and they couldn’t wait to get back and join in the next workshop.”

“I have never worked with a better team than this,” said Viau. “They support each other, they laugh together, they enjoy each other’s company, and they enjoy the whole experience.”

Many members of the group have taken the lead in activities, and for virtually everyone, the sessions have become a place to regularly get involved in something exciting and different.

“There are lots of smiles at every workshop,” Plamondon said. “The group has a sense of doing something important, of taking part in something that truly makes them feel part of this community.”

While the special program will go on a break over the summer, the weekly sessions will begin again in the fall – this time with an exciting goal in mind.

“We will be rehearsing for a new Christmas production,” Viau explained.

“On December 17, the Community Living Players will be presenting a Christmas Pageant on the Playhouse stage for our entire community.”

In a scene from the mini play, Noah’s Ark, (l-r) actors David Vexler, Dan Levere and Irwin Smith, take on the roles of some of the animals.