RCA Theatre Company Presents
The Dialysis Project
Leah Lewis, Robert Chafe and Evalyn Parry
Text and performance by
Project Design Collaborator:
Lighting and Sound Design, Technical Direction by
Projection Design by
Stage Managed by
Livestream Technician and Camera Operator:
Dr. Gault and Leah Puppets by
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Mel Hague, Sarah Garton Stanley, The National Arts Centre Collaborations, Morgan Jones Phillips, Erin Brubacher, Brad Hart, Blair Voyvodic, Suzanne Robertson and Fox, Diana Daly, Flora Planchat, Luke Dobson, Lori Clarke, Lois Brown, David and Karen Hood, The Admiralty House Museum, Willow and Dave Jackson-Anderson, Roxy Jackson-Anderson, Bryar Smith, Glenn Nuotio, Erin Holland, Sharon MacDonald and the Home Dialysis Program at Eastern Health, MUN Research Team: Jan Buley, Natalie Beausoleil, Pam Ward, Abdullah Saif (Doctoral Student Community Health), MUN Research Centre for the study of Music, Media, and Place, The auto-ethnography research writing group at MUN, Faculty of Education’s Writing Group.
Notes from the Creators:
Thank you for being with us tonight.
This show has gone through many stages of development and public workshop presentations over the last five years, from Mt. Pearl to Toronto and back. We’ve pulled it apart and built it back up again, many times, each an attempt to capture the truth of Leah’s relationship with dialysis, her machine, her body, the medical system. The truth is that the truth kept shifting, because it is complex, evolving, with tendrils of implication and resonance in all facets of Leah’s life. As a creative team we wanted to be responsive to that. We wanted The Dialysis Project to be nothing if not completely true to Leah at each moment of its public sharing. The version you see tonight is a very different version than it was even a year ago. At that time we were discussing how to exemplify the solitude of Leah’s dialysis experience in a public format: on stage in front of a hundred or more people. We talked about putting her on a riser out of people’s reach, of hiding her in a box and making her visible only via live video feed. The ideas were never quite right, and sometimes comically wrong. But with the challenges of public health lockdowns came a somewhat imposed solution: what if Leah does her home dialysis ACTUALLY from home. The idea was so perfect it amazed us we hadn’t considered it before.
Over the course of its development, versions of this show have been about disconnect, distance, tethering, crisis, fear. The current incarnation still holds parts of those conversations, but now the show is resonating mostly closely with the idea of connection. It’s deeply fitting. For the last few weeks we have found ourselves masked and distanced in Leah’s home, with collaborators hooked up online from Montreal, Toronto, and Charlottetown, PEI. Leah’s living room looks more like a tech booth, with lighting boards and boom mics and computers buzzing with cursors magically being commanded by designers a thousand kilometers away, in a process that wouldn’t have been possible even a few short years ago. It’s been stunning to watch. We are deeply grateful for the expertise of the team, for their commitment to Leah and her story, and for being so present though some are so far away.
And, we are so grateful for the unwavering support of Nicole, Nora, Danielle and RCAT. Thank you for making The Dialysis Project a reality.
Leah Lewis is an artist and scholar. She has worked as an actor and writer within the provincial arts industry for many years, with theatre, film and television credits that include Artistic Fraud’s adaptation of Michael Crummey’s work Salvage: The Story of a House, Pope Productions adaptation of Ed Riche’s Rare Birds, and others. Leah merges her love of the arts with her research in her assistant professor position with Memorial University Faculty of Education’s Counselling Psychology graduate program. In particular, Leah applies the arts to research that considers the patient role and input to health outcomes. The Dialysis Project is the second of a series of Leah’s arts-based work on patient voice and health.
Evalyn Parry is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary theatre-maker: a director, writer, performer and collaborator committed to performance that creates a space for challenging conversations, personal and social transformation. From 2015 to 2020, she served as Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Parry’s acclaimed, genre-defying works have toured nationally and internationally, including Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (Edinburgh International Festival; Cervantino Festival, Mexico; Luminato Festival) and SPIN, a musical exploration of the feminist history of the bicycle (Lincoln Center, NYC; Sound Symposium, Newfoundland; High Performance Rodeo, Calgary, and many more). Other recent productions include Obaaberima by Tawiah M’Carthy (Buddies; Dora Award for Outstanding Production), Gertrude and Alice (Buddies / Independent Aunties; Governor General’s Literary Award nominee) and the acclaimed, queer inter-generational Youth/ Elders Project (Buddies). In addition to numerous Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Evalyn is the recipient of the KM Hunter Award for Theatre and the Ken McDougall Award for Directing, and has released five albums of music. www.evalynparry.com (Photo by Suzanne Robertson)
Robert Chafe has worked in theatre, dance, opera, radio, fiction and film. His stage plays have been seen in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and in the United States, and include Oil and Water, Tempting Providence, Afterimage, Under Wraps, Between Breaths, and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (adapted from the novel by Wayne Johnston.) He has been shortlisted twice for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and he won the award for Afterimage in 2010. He has been guest instructor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, and The National Theatre School of Canada. In 2018 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the playwright and Artistic Director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.
Project Design Collaborator
Kaitlin Hickey works with people to tell stories. Recently she’s been gutting and slowly putting a house back together on the Bay of Fundy. In pre-pandemic times she had the pleasure to work on the following productions: Lighting Design: Controlled Damage (Neptune Theatre), Co-Production Design: Book of Life (Volcano Theatre & The Women Cultural Centre Rwanda); Set Design: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (Buddies in Bad Times, Edinburgh International Festival); Production Design: Empire Trilogy: Four Sisters (Paradigm Productions); Lighting Design: Empire Trilogy: The Philosopher’s Wife (Paradigm Productions); Set Design: Noor, (Generous Friend, Aga Khan Museum); Lighting & Set Design: Knives in Hens (Coal Mine Theatre), Lighting Design: The Children’s Republic (Belfry Theatre), Production Design: Tibb’s Eve and Chapel Arm (Mindless Theatrics). She misses airports, street food and crowded celebrations.
Lighting and Sound Design/Technical Direction
Brian is a designer for theatre from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador and is a graduate from The National Theatre School of Canada, The Banff Centre for the Arts, and Sheridan College. Selected credits include: Come From Away in concert [Mirvish], Billy Elliott, The Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man [Stratford Festival], Once [Segal Centre], Between Breaths, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams [Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland], Dedication, Seal Slippers, Tales of Dwipa [RCA Theatre], Tibb’s Eve, Chapel Arm [Mindless Theatrics], Sherlock, A Woman Is A Secret, Ballad of the Young Offender [SideMart Theatrical Grocery]. Brian is a member of the Associated Designers of Canada and IATSE Local 659.
Elysha Poirier is a multidisciplinary artist working with animation, film and video. Combining digital and analog sources she creates intrinsic worlds of their own reflected in mixed media and digital 3D environments. Based in Montreal, Elysha is currently experimenting with generative platforms for virtual and mixed reality, including experimental web design. Elysha’s work is deeply connected to movement and sound where she translates audio and gesture into real-time motion graphics – transporting the viewer to an imaginative world where boundaries and thresholds are rearranged and transposed. She’s realized a wide range of installations and engaged in live performances for dance, experimental music, film, theatre and web. www.elyshapoirier.com
Jana Gillis is a stage manager, actor, writer, director, improviser & filmmaker from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This is her first time working with the RCA Theatre Company and she’s so happy to be part of the team. She holds a BFA in Theatre Acting from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a red t-shirt with a chair on it from The Second City Training Centre’s Toronto Sketch Conservatory. In the before times, she was the resident stage manager for The Second City Toronto’s House Company & Education Company. Other tech experience includes 2019 Toronto Fringe productions Woke N’ Broke (Sixty60, Sketch) & Great Lakes Five (Low Fidelity Productions, Improv). She’s ecstatic to be back working in Newfoundland with her first love theatre on this exciting new project. Thanks Susan Jennings, Sam Polito & Natalie Moore for teaching her all the things. Sometimes you can even catch her on stage!
Livestream Technician and Camera Operator
Emma Pope (she/her; elle) is a St. John’s- and Montreal-based multidisciplinary sound technician/designer, videographer, composer and vocalist. Her manifold work and community involvement in the field of audio and film includes projects with the NL Sound Symposium, Spirit Song Festival, McGill’s Schulich School of Music and Out of Earshot Festival amongst others. Emma is very grateful for the opportunity to work with her colleagues who she considers visionaries in the field. She hopes you enjoy the virtual experience of this story’s enlightening tribute to chronic illness told through the lens of the amazing “Dialysis Warrior” Dr. Leah Lewis!
Thanks are indebted to my colleagues (Leah for being such a beautiful person and allowing us to help share her story; Brian for providing technical insight, laughs, and nerd-outs about gear; Jana for being a caring powerhouse of an SM; Elysha for her evident artistic excellence; Kaitlin for always providing inventive insight; Robert for unmistakably-witty creativity and rhetoric; of course Evalyn for commandeering our ship with grace); Michelle LaCour for always believing in me and teaching me so much of what I know in this field; my partner Drew for always untangling the myriad of cables and gear I tend to fall asleep with; my mother for entertaining my love of what she calls “wires and machines” all these years. RCAT (specifically Nicole and Nora) and the research team at MUN for their boundless help in the facilitating of this project.
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