One-man play tackles bullying, violence
Actor Colin Dingwall tells the story of an Edmonton 15-year-old dealing with bullying and violence in the one-man play “Routes” at Our Lady of Mount Pleasant School on April 22. The Family Violence Response Council partnered with the Rotary Club of Camrose to bring the production to Charlie Killam, CCHS and OLMP.
With nothing more than a couple of bus seats, a projected background and and a few sound effects, actor Colin Dingwall and the crew of Edmonton’s Concrete Theatre transfixed the upper grade audience at Our Lady of Mount Pleasant for a full hour.
Nearing the end of a 19 school tour of the one-man play Routes, the theatre company stopped at OLMP, Camrose Composite High and Charlie Killam at the invitation of the Family Violence Response Council, with funding from the Rotary Club of Camrose.
Routes tells the story of Tom, a 15-year-old Edmonton boy who rides the bus rather than go home and face his dysfunctional home. While he rides, he reflects on his tenuous relationships with his former best friend, Leonard, his alcoholic father, and a man who was killed by three teenagers on that very bus line a short time before.
The play ends on a hopeful note, but offers no easy solutions to the problems of bullying and violence, sometimes posing a challenge for actor Dingwall as he fields questions after the performance.
“The questions that are the most challenging, I’d say overall, are the ones asking, ‘Well then, what is the answer?’ looking for an answer that you can put in one line and define in a box. There isn’t really a, ‘That’s what you do’ [solution].”
Stage manager Ntara Curry agreed. “Some are emotionally challenging, like, ‘Why didn’t he talk to Leonard?’ If Leonard was his best friend, why did he ignore him? which is sort of hard to just succinctly [answer].”
“To just be like, ‘This is the one thing,’ because it’s so many things, right?” finished Dingwall.
He has had many students come up to him after performances and tell him how much they related to the protagonist.
“And then we’ve also had other people who’ve come up to us and disclosed about situations at home. The reactions people have had have been very positive and very good, but there is that side of like, this is a good step that we’ve taken but it’s a bad thing that’s happened to that person,” said Dingwall.
Performing alone in front of high school audiences is likely a recurring nightmare for some people, but not Dingwall.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s fun. It’s fun because I like acting. This is my skydiving. I also think it’s very fulfilling, especially after when people come up and go, ‘I’ve felt that. I’ve experienced that.’ It makes it like. ‘That was hard for me to do onstage, but I would do it a hundred more times if it helps one kid get out of a crappy situation.’ It’s hard, but it’s good.”
A recent University of Lethbride fine arts grad, Dingwall was drawn to the play for the same reasons audiences relate to it.
“I read it and I cried and I was like, ‘I know this. I’ve felt these things.’ It was a really sort of personal experience for me.”
T he reward of being in the production is being part of something that could start conversations, spark thought processes and create a ripple effect beyond entertainment.
Sheralyn Dobos, program director of the Family Violence Action Society, explained, “It’s a theme that’s familiar to everyone, and still we struggle with it. People are challenged with bullying, violence and just aggressive public and private [actions] in the home and out in the community. We want to get the message out to people that...there are organizations in the community that are here to help.”