Event Preview: “maladjusted”

“maladjusted” explores the mechanization of the mental health system with a goal of creating a discussion on how to move towards more human-centred care. This interactive forum theatre is created and performed by patients and caregivers.

Organized by Theatre for Living at the Firehall Arts Centre, the performance is going on until March 28. Please note that the venue is wheelchair accessible, offers gender-inclusive washrooms, serves alcohol and is not scent free.

“maladjusted” looks at both current events and broader issues. The play itself explores the mechanization of the mental health system, exploring three narratives of people affected by a rigid system: A young girl and her mother, a houseless man, a recovery home worker, a  psychiatrist and a social worker – the play explores all of these characters and how a mechanized system makes it impossible for them to seek or provide adequate care.

These issues come up because of a broader issue but are also relevant to current events. Within the mental health system we’re seeing more and more funding cuts, the introduction of ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams, and inadequate options for low-income housing. These are all issues that arise due to a mechanized, dehumanized system.

Mental health issues are relevant to every one of us, including students. It can be challenging to access adequate mental health care at UBC: we’re faced with wait lists, impersonal appointments and a dehumanized system.

Not only are students affected by a mechanized mental health system as people accessing care, but they are also affected as people studying to provide care. Students in public health, nursing, social work, psychology, law are all impacted by the mechanization of mental health. These are people who are either already providing care or people who are pursuing jobs in the mental health system or adjacent systems that are impacted by the issues we explore.

The beauty of this type of theatre is the diverse audiences that it brings out. “maladjusted” has a free voucher program, where 30% of the house is reserved each night for low- or no-income individuals, so what we often see is a wealthy theatre buff who wants to come see innovative theatre sitting next to a homeless person who wants to use the stage as a platform for meaningful discussion. Bringing these types of audiences together in one room is powerful.

People who attended “maladjusted” in its original run in 2013 ranged from students to service providers, people living in supportive housing, shelter workers, social workers, lawyers, policy makers, MPs, professors, parents, youth, people in theatre, artists, activists, and journalists – it’s theatre that appeals to everyone.

Theatre for Living is an activist theatre company. All of their shows explore relevant social issues with a goal of creating a safe space for communities to dialogue about issues that affect them.

Theatre for Living evolved from Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed.” David Diamond, our artistic director, has since moved away from the binary language of oppressor and oppressed and approaches these issues from a systems-based perspective, understanding that a community is a complexly integrated organism. This shift happened when David was asked to do a play about family violence in a First Nations community. Community organizers asked him not to demonize the oppressor because they wanted to honour the history of residential schools and generational violence. This doesn’t mean that the actions of the oppressor are condoned, but that we remain aware that they have a story to tell as well, and to create social change, we have to listen to that story.

Each production is created and performed by people affected by the issues. In this way, the cast and the audience hear about issues from the ground. “maladjusted” does not impose stories on communities; instead they listen to what people have to say and create plays that open up a discussion. “maladjusted” was created by patients and caregivers in 2013 in a workshop of around 40 participants, all voluntarily sharing their stories as they wanted to expose the system and move toward better care. The cast members have also lived these experiences. It’s important to be performed by people affected by the issues because the Forum, or the audience-interactive part of the play requires improvisation on the part of the actors. Because they have all experienced the mental health system in some capacity, they speak from a very real place, allowing for a genuine discussion space.

You can find the facebook event here