Charitable Choices: Some Assembly Theatre Company

Some Assembly Theatre Company is a charitable arts organization that brings together youth and industry professionals to create and produce original plays. We spoke with Valerie Methot, Executive and Artistic Director, to find out more about them.

Some Assembly Theatre Company

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Some Assembly Theatre Company is a charitable not-for-profit arts organization in its 22nd year of bringing together youth and industry professionals to create and produce original plays that promote awareness, dialogue, and positive social change around issues that young people face. Our plays address ideas and issues that are important to young people. We are proud to engage youth from diverse backgrounds including BIPOC individuals, LGBTQSAI+, and newcomers, with lived experiences of poverty, homelessness, substance use and/or mental health issues. The company is the recipient of the City of Vancouver Youth Award for outstanding contribution to the youth community and the Deryck Thomson Award for exceptional contribution to community building and well-being.

What problem does it aim to solve?

The challenges we’re tackling involve young people experiencing challenges including addiction, anxiety, depression, poverty and homelessness. The majority of these youth say they don’t fit in or have a sense of belonging. These are young people who can fall through the cracks. Using theatre as an artistic tool, we are connecting these young people to themselves, community, and care. The youth are set up for success in our program that nurtures, heals, inspires, educates and celebrates youth. Some Assembly’s partner Vancouver Coastal Health provides youth support with mental health and substance use clinicians, LGBTQSAI+ health programs, deaf-blind well-being programs and immigrant services. There is no cost for youth to participate, prior theatre experience is not required, and food and honoraria are provided. Many past participants say the money helps to pay for food for their families. The youth also get references for post-secondary, and future jobs and are welcome back to gain further skills.

When did you start/join it?

I started Some Assembly as a Roundhouse artist-residency project in 2001 with an extensive process of youth outreach. I hung out in the Roundhouse lobby for several months speaking with youth, asking them if they would be interested in participating in a theatre project with professional theatre artists. If they were interested I asked what they wanted the project to involve. Most said that they wanted to create plays with professionals and present them to the public. Over fifty youth showed up to the first group meeting. At that point, I assembled some artists – Chandra Lesmeister (costume/set design) and Jeremy Baxter (lighting/sound design). This is how Some Assembly began. I am very grateful to still be an artist-in-residence at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.

What made you want to get involved?

I wanted to create a theatre project for youth based on the artistic methodology I developed for her Masters of Fine Arts thesis project at UBC. Using theatre as a tool to address social issues and process trauma, I created Treated with Tango, a play to honour my friend who died of AIDS. I experienced first-hand the transformative power of theatre. Having been an at-risk youth myself, I tailored my methodology for vulnerable youth.

What was the situation like when you started?

The Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre was developed into a community centre in 1997. It is located in Yaletown, an area in downtown Vancouver. It. At that time there was a lot of development in the area including co-ops that families moved into. In 2001 when I started the project, there were many youth in the area who were newcomers to Canada, looking for something to do. They needed a positive outlet. When I started working with the youth on the first theatre project, it was very eye-opening what struggles they were facing. I remember at the end of one of my first workshops, Gabor Mate arrived to pick up his daughter. He leaned over to speak into my ear ‘You are doing important work’. I only understood the depth of that statement in my later years. For the first few years running the project, everything was so new and the budget was small. With the momentum growing in youth interest, I was determined to keep the project going. It was a big learning curve for me to determine what was needed to support the youth, the artistic process, and where I stood as an artist in all of this.

How has it changed since?

I started involving more artists through the Roundhouse partnership programs, partnered with Vancouver Coastal Health and started involving youth workers. I wrote grant applications endlessly (still do) and I apply what I learn from a project to inform the next project. The projects are now able to involve around 100 diverse youth and twenty theatre industry professionals. Each year, new and returning youth participants develop skills and confidence through a range of workshops and creative processes in script development, acting, music, movement, design, film, and facilitation. The success of the first project in 2002 developed into Some Assembly as a charitable not-for-profit arts organization that has worked with thousands of youth over the years in the creation and presentation of over thirty theatre productions. Our past plays have addressed racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexual assault, depression, climate change, and suicidal ideation. More than a thousand youth attend our annual performances and engage in community dialogues about the youth-driven content. Youth audience members tell us they feel part of a larger community because they connect to peer performers who mirror and validate their concerns, ideas, and experiences. ‘My life has significantly changed towards the positive because of Some Assembly.’ – Youth participant

What more needs to be done?

We keep growing our projects with more youth involvement. We need funding to help us engage with all diverse interested youth.

How can our readers help?

Please spread the word about who we are and what we do. To provide this life-changing experience for youth we need more financial support. Any amount you can give is appreciated. We give charitable tax receipts for all donations. To make a donation: www.someassembly.ca

Do you have any events coming up?

Our new play THE WAIT LIST EXPERIMENT’ is being presented at the Roundhouse Performance Centre from April 29 – to May 3, 2022. With a surreal artistic edge, THE WAIT LIST EXPERIMENT promotes access to optimism for a post-pandemic future. Eight youth who are on wait lists to see therapists have been recommended for an experimental pandemic peer support program, which takes place in the eye of somewhere unknown. Their journey has been long and full of unexpected experiences which force them to face, work through, and finally embrace their fears. Created by diverse Metro Vancouver youth with playwright and director Valerie Methot, and several industry professionals, this timely theatre piece stems from conversations with youth who say the pressure to imagine their future during a pandemic is challenging – especially when trying to manage and cope with everyday fears and struggles. With a focus on mental health and addiction, THE WAIT LIST EXPERIMENT draws on various art forms for inspiration including comedy, drama, original music, movement, mask work, and visual design. To reserve your seat www.someassembly.ca

Where can we follow you?

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