The Belfry Theatre premieres Home is a Beautiful Word January 7-19.
Part play, part documentary, this work of Verbatim Theatre contains recorded dialogue from Victoria residents.
The issue of homelessnes is viewed from many angles with surprising results.
Twas the night before Christmas and I’m dashing through Centennial Square. The square is ablaze with twinkling lights. The fountain gushes forth waves of rose and purple splendor. I’m delighted by the festive scene and gaze around, spotting the only other person in the square. The figure sits hunched on a bench staring intently into a baby carriage. I walk towards her. She wears several coats and furry beige antlers over a dark grey toque. Glimpsing into the carriage as I pass, I see all her personal belongings. The magic of the moment slips away with my saddened heart.
Joel Bernbaum wrote his master’s thesis on Verbatim Theatre’s relationship to journalism. Verbatim Theatre uses the exact spoken words of interviewees to craft a story. “The key ingredient in this life-changing research was time,” says Bernbaum. He spent two years interviewing over 500 Victoria residents.
Bernbaum connected with a wide selection of locals by visiting shelters, schools, homes, jails and street corners. The interviews ranged from five minutes to five hours. Humbled by the openness of strangers and intrigued by their fascinating stories, he found that “over and over my assumptions were shattered."
On Opening Night some special guests from our community came to celebrate.
Rabbi Harry Brechner leads the Congregation Emanu-El in Canada’s oldest synagogue, located downtown at Blanchard and Pandora. The synagogue partners with Beacon Community Services to offer food and lodging to homeless youth one night a week October to May.
“The sacred texts encourage humanitarian acts,” he says.
But as the play points out, the work can be disheartening at times. “It’s like putting bandaids on a gaping wound. We need a major shift in thinking to resolve these issues.”
Rae Ann Brechner is a intake social worker at Jubilee Hospital. She explains that a homeless person receives excellent care in the Intensive Care Unit. “But we’re less successful at finding follow up care to prevent a recurrence.” Underfunding also creates stresses for health care agencies. “It’s a complex series of challenges for social workers to juggle,” she says.
Reverend Allen Tysick founded the Victoria Dandelion Society in 2011. His experience with people on the streets spans 40 years. Each morning at 5:30 Reverend Al delivers coffee, snacks and warm supplies to Victoria’s homeless people. He offers his special gifts of presence and encouragement.
“I understand the systems and the way poverty and homelessness impact our community,” he says. “Our laws and treatment of the working poor contribute to the problems.”