• Eugene Stickland

Progress Update

Sometimes when bad things happen, we see only the immediate consequences. We realize we are going to have to change our plans and adapt to the new reality. We talk about making the best of a bad situation. We start again. What else can any of us do?

This is the situation people all over the world have found themselves since mid March. All sorts of plans have had to change all over the place! The first one I noticed that made me realize that things were going to be quite different was when the NBA first postponed and then cancelled its season. And then all the other professional leagues followed suit. Four months later and they are still trying to figure it all out.

Closer to home at Stardale, we had to face the same conditions, the same reality, and come up with a plan of our own. Our timeline was that until the end of February, I was working with the girls, encouraging them to write about their own experiences with the end result envisioned as a performance piece that the girls would have presented at a gala evening (and fundraiser) in mid May.

I had just started to edit their words and was busy creating a coherent script for them to perform. We had retained the services of Helen Young (known around Stardale as "Little Helen") to direct the girls. Helen had directed The Make Believer Project two years ago and the girls like her (we all do!) and respond well to her direction.

And then came early March. Suddenly, things started closing. The city, the country, the entire world started to shut down. Do you remember? Schools closed. Restaurants closed. Theatres, cinemas, hockey arenas and on and on. Initially we were told this would last for two weeks. Two weeks! And here we are in July and things still haven't opened back up entirely.

And so, at Stardale we did what we had to do and adapted. Fortunately, we had had with us throughout the winter Vanessa Wentzel, a young (and award-winning) videographer. Some nights, Vanessa was just there to watch our process unfold, to get a sense of how I work, and then how (Little) Helen works with the script and the girls. The initial plan for Vanessa was for her to create some kind of video complementary to the stage play we were creating.

It's rather strange now, looking back, that Helen McPhaden ("Big Helen") and I were never able to tell Vanessa what we wanted her to do, exactly. This turned out to be a blessing. Had we been able to tell her exactly what to do, she might have been off doing that. As it turned out, it was much more important in the long run that she was able to spend time with the girls, and get to know them and generally get a feel for the essence of The Road project.

Last weekend, Vanessa and both Helens along with a team of artists began shooting the video version of The Road. Obviously front and centre are the girls, who are now acting on camera the words they wrote back in the winter. I have included a few stills from that shoot. When I see these amazing photos, you can imagine I get excited about what's yet to come. And I dream ahead to the day when we can all gather for the premiere presentation of this piece.

I mentioned above that these times call for us to make the best of a bad situation. I believe at Stardale we have done exactly that. In fact, given the immensely talented team that has built up around this production, I believe we will if anything come out ahead.

Funny how it works out that way.

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