• Ben Drysdale

Pandemic Players Project

Recruiting now for COVID-19 theatre project focused on recovery, resilience and the wellbeing of older Canberrans

Council on the Ageing (COTA) ACT recently received funding from the ACT Government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Innovation Grants Program to work with volunteers 55 years and over to explore the mental health effect COVID-19 has had on older Canberrans.

The Pandemic Players Project involves recruiting 10 to 15 people, 55 years and over to volunteer their time to work with local theatre professionals from Rebus Theatre. With a workshop once a week (and more leading up to the performance) participants will explore the impact and how recent experiences of lockdown under the COVID – 19 restrictions have affected senior Canberrans. This project will explore feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as marginalisation and look at wellbeing, methods of healing and building resilience.

Ideally we are looking for people that are prepared to discuss and share their experiences as well as work with others in the community to understand their encounters of COVID-19. The 10 to 15 participants will be encouraged to 'dig deeper' and source stories from older Canberrans who are not able to access the workshops. This may be over the phone, online or one-on-one. The participants will need to be willing to be guided by the theatre practitioners to develop and devise a group performance from the source material gathered.

If this sounds like something that you would like to get involved in, please visit the COTA ACT website or email Events@cotaact.org.au or call the COTA ACT office on 62823777 for more information.

How will the project work?

Council on the Ageing (COTA) ACT and Rebus Theatre will offer a space for 10 to 15 participants to explore what seniors have experienced since COVID-19 appeared in the community. Content will include the mental health of seniors and how marginalisation, loneliness and isolation has impacted older Canberrans.

The participants will be led through a series of group theatre workshops and exercises which will incorporate ways of using theatre and art to stimulate healing and provoke social change. These workshops will focus on recovery, resilience, improving mental health and the wellbeing of older Canberrans.

The 10 to 15 participants will be led through a theatrical process of devising theatre by sourcing material from other seniors, writing stories, sharing anecdotes and using this rich source of material to form the basis of a performance outcome at the end of the project. The plan is for the theatre piece created to be performed in senior centres and at COTA ACT events in the future.

We expect the stories told during the performance will resonate amongst the Canberra community. Audience members will be encouraged to consider their own experiences when watching the characters and stories portrayed. The story-telling process will enable audiences to identify with the material and understand their own wellbeing, the impact COVID-19 has had on them and reflect on processes for healing.

The Pandemic Players Project is scheduled to start in late November 2020 and end in May 2021. There will be ample time off over the Christmas and school holiday period to cater for seniors looking after children over the busy holiday time.

How can you participate?

There are two different ways you can get involved in the Pandemic Players Project. You can either:

  • participate as one of the 10 – 15 volunteers over 55. This will include sharing your stories around COVID-19 experiences, sourcing content from other seniors, devising theatre, writing and performing the created theatre, or

  • share your experiences of how COVID-19 has impacted your life. Your stories will be used in the theatre performance by the participants creating the theatre (names will be changed).

If this sounds like a project that interests you, either as a participant in devising the play or as someone offering their story and experiences, we would love to hear from you.

For those interested in participating as one of the 10 - 15 practitioners, you will need to express your interest to us by Friday 13 November 2020. For those interested in sharing your experiences living under COVID-19, please contact us any time to register your willingness to share and once the project is underway one of the practitioners will be in touch to have a more detailed conversation with you.

Please contact the COTA ACT office on 6282 3777 or by sending an email to Events@cotaact.org.au

We look forward to hearing from you!

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