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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

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The intention of this project is to promote healing and storytelling through community and performance. There will be an open call to anyone who wishes to get involved in the process of creating a piece of performance art regarding the topic of disordered eating and performance.

There will be efforts made to encourage a wide range of people to participate in the workshopping and performing process. This includes diversity in age, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability level, and type of disability. While, ideally, most of the collective would be comprised of people living with disordered eating behaviours, it may also be interesting to hear from people supporting loved ones living with disordered eating behaviours or people who work closely with performers living with disordered eating behaviours. There is no cost to participants associated with this program.

There will be a five week series of workshops where this group of people will discuss things such as:

How does disordered eating affect performers? How does disordered eating affect performance itself?

What is performance?

What is disordered eating?

How does performance affect people physically and emotionally?

The difference between intentional and unintentional performances regarding disordered eating

Is there a place for people with disordered eating behaviours in spaces that promote performance?

How can we support one another regarding disordered eating behaviours?

while also taking care of ourselves?

How can being creative contribute to healing?

How does body image affect performance?

The lived experiences of performers with disordered eating behaviours?

Any people involved in the workshopping process will be invited to work on the actual writing of the performance based on the notes from the workshopping process. The format of performance will be discussed amongst collective (monologues? One act play? Music? Dance? Movement? Visual art? Combination?) There will be 4 rehearsals and two performances at the end of the workshopping process. Tickets will be sold for $20 each, with compensated and discounted tickets available to anyone who would like to attend, but cannot afford the ticket price. There will also be a “pay what you can” donation jar available at all performances and throughout the workshopping and rehearsal process.

Other topics will likely come up, and anyone involved in the collective will encouraged to bring up topics that are relevant to the project. Notes will be taken at each workshop. Workshops will be co-facilitated by Lyss England and Jillien Hone. Workshops will be done according to To the Root’s community discussion format.

 

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collabart.JPGThe above is a collaborative piece of art that was produced during the process of The Performance and Disordered Eating Project. The artists involved are Lyss, Jill, Lindsey, MJ, Clayton, and Marcela.

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The Performance and Disability Project, presented in partnership with To the Root Community Discussions and Green Wood Coalition in Port Hope Downtown, is a collectively formed piece of performance art on the topic of disability and performance. With the intention of promoting healing and storytelling through community and performance, there was an open call to anyone in the Northumberland community who wanted to participate in such a project. Once the collective, which is comprised of about ten people, was formed, we began to meet at Green Wood Coalition’s space on John Street, in Port Hope, where we took part in a series of five community discussions centered around the topic. What underlies these discussions is a collective intention to care for ourselves and one another, and to remain committed to anti-oppressive practice- and creativity. Rather than positioning the facilitator (Lyss England of To the Root) as an authoritative expert, members of the collective are considered an expert on their own lived experience. Outlines and notes from all five community discussions can be found at performanceanddisabilityproject.tumblr.com.

While engaging in this five week long workshopping process, folks in the collective kept in mind the creative end product (which was presented as a very open concept- simply that of “performance”), and begin to work on a creative ways to present their story and experiences regarding disability. Although most of this collective has no previous performance experience, we have worked towards feeling comfortable sharing our stories through various means of performance such as poetry reading, monologues, a short silent scene, and performance art. After the five workshops, we moved into Ontario Street Theatre  to spend three weeks running through our show.

It has been a process that has allowed folks in the collective to explore ourselves creatively, gain support from one other, and to stand in our own power to share our stories and experiences on our own terms. Therapeutic processes can sometimes seem daunting to participants because the end product (feeling safe, comfortable, and supported) seems so far out of reach. Contrastingly, theatrical and performance processes are often so focused on the end product that the process (including emotional and physical components) becomes secondary to the end product. This format fuses therapeutic process with creative end product. The best of both worlds. Our show is raw, honest, and paradigm shifting. Most importantly, it creates a space for the stories of people who are too often pushed aside in our community.

Shows are July 24 at 7pm and July 26 at 2pm at Ontario Street Theatre in Port Hope, Ontario. $20 per ticket (contact Lyss at totherootdiscussions@gmail.com if this price makes the show inaccessible to you). Contact Lyss England (totherootdiscussions@gmail.com) or Sean Carthew to reserve tickets, or show up at the door. Proceeds go to Green Wood Coalition and future To the Root projects. Physically accessible, sober space with immediate peer support available on site. Big thanks to Northumberland Sunrise Rotary for funding!

 

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From www.greenwoodcoalition.com

We’re pleased to partner with To the Root facilitator and theatre activist, Lyss England, in presenting the Disability & Performance Project over 8 weeks, beginning June 2. This series of Tuesday evening workshops, presented at our space, 17 John St., Port Hope and the Ontario Street Theatre, and will consist of five three-hour long workshop evenings on topics related to performance and disability, three three-hour long evenings of rehearsal, and two performances. There is no cost for this great series, so if you’d like to be involved, contact Lyss at totherootdiscussions@gmail.com.

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Click here to view notes from the entire collaborative performance.

 

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I was nineteen, living in downtown Toronto with my partner for the summer. We did a lot of going to punk shows, and a lot of drinking beer. One evening, our friends stayed over. We didn’t stay up late, didn’t drink much, but had a nice time. The next morning, I walked one of our friends to her streetcar stop, which was across the street from our apartment. We were walking across the intersection at College and Dufferin, with me just behind my friend. The crosswalk symbol glowed a half-burnt out white man walking. 
And then I saw your car, about to turn left, right into the crosswalk. I thought you were going to stop, it was our right of way, but you kept going. You never stopped at any point, and were clearly in  hurry. I would guess you were going at least 40km/hr. I thought you were going to stop, but you kept going. You hit me, as I turned towards your car at the last minute. I ended up flat on my back in the middle of the street. That was when you stopped.
I jumped up, shot full of adrenaline, I didn’t feel anything at all. Frozen, my typical initial response to a threat. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. You got out of your car, ran towards me, and hugged me. I thought you were going to stop, but you kept going. You said, “I’m so sorry! Please don’t call the police, I have so much going on right now”. You were crying.

My friend’s streetcar came. I turned to her, “go, catch your streetcar. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine”. She caught her streetcar. A man who had been parked just down the street yelled, “call the police!’ to me. I hated the police. You were obviously not okay right now. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. I said, “listen, go pull over somewhere until you calm down”.

You got back into your car, and I crossed the street again and went home. As I entered my apartment, I felt the pain hit. My arms and legs were numb. My neck hurt so fucking badly. My entire body ached like the worst flu I had ever had. Like I’d been hit by a car. I told my partner what happened, and he told me I should have called the police to report it. To hold you accountable. I told him I was in too much pain to hear him out in that moment.
I want you to know that I have lived with pain every single day. 
I want you to know that typing this letter to you may be the only thing I’m able to do today, because my arms feel like there are pins stuck in them that have been roasting in a fire for three days. 
I want you to know that I have spasms in my neck, shoulders, back, legs, and arm every day.
I want you to know that finishing my undergraduate nearly killed me because I was trying to figure out how to manage my chronic pain. 
I want you to know that I’ve been on countless medications, each with side effects worse than the last. 
I want you know know that I spent years fighting for my right to medicate naturally with cannabis, and that the legal structuring of the laws around that have made it incredibly difficult to access and that the stigma I deal with because of it threatens my present and future every day.
I want you to know that starting my career has been made more complicated by my chronic pain. The career I’ve chosen involves shift work (including overnight shifts), physically assisting people at times, and a lot of emotional labour. The shift work fucks up the rhythm I’ve worked so hard to establish, the one that managed my pain, the physical assistance of people is simply not possible at times, and it’s hard to allot emotional labour for work AND for managing my own pain (not to mention layers to trauma). I have had to advocate for my physical needs, sometimes successfully, sometimes at the detriment of my career.
I want you to know that I regret not getting your contact information so that I could send you this letter, if not hold you accountable.
I was nineteen. I was young, idealistic, scared, and shocked. You were a middle-aged woman with a big fancy SUV who had the nerve to ask me not to call the police. You had the nerve to drive away. I thought you were going to stop, but you kept going. I don’t know what you were going through at the time, but you didn’t know what I was going through either. I wonder if you live with the effects of this event every day, like I do, or if you’ve forgotten. I wonder if you told your partner or your children or your parents or your friends or you coworkers what happened, and what they said to you. I wonder if you kept it a secret.
I thought the pain was going to stop, but it’s still going. 

 

– A.

CW: homelessness, PTSD, depression, anxiety, Christmas, chronic pain, eviction, mentions of rape, rejection, MMJ, gaslighting

For the first time in ten years, I wasn’t literally going crazy around Christmas. Usually around this time of year, everything makes me feel beyond sad and so anxious I feel like I’m dying constantly. Last year, this mental health crisis began in November and lasted until about September. Almost an entire year of crazy.

But this year, so far, I was managing a lot better. I was doing things to take care of my mental health. I was a few moths into therapy, and I quit a job that was infringing on my mental health. Christmas one week away, ten years without mom two weeks away, my twenty-sixth birthday two and a half weeks away. Nine year rapeiversarry less than a month away. Nine year suicide attempt anniversary less than two months away. But I was holding up. Even though I had been fired from a job I’d really wanted, rejected from multiple others, rejected from a writing fellowship, rejected from grad school, and was feeling a little undervalued in my many volunteering attempts (all in the last couple months), I was actively working on myself and making an effort to do things that felt good. Healing.

And then my landlord delivered an N5 to my door. Three complaints, all within the last month, from the neighbour upstairs about my dog barking when we weren’t home. This neighbour had a history of complaining about anything and everything in the building, and had lived there even longer than the three years we had lived there. For the last couple of months, everything in the building had been quiet, and, as far as I was aware, there had been no drama whatsoever.

Our names were spelled wrong on the forms, which automatically voids them. But it was still an unnecessary stress that, honestly, infringed on MY enjoyment of MY space. We had seven days to correct the problem, or we would be taken to the Landlord Tenant Board. My landlord told me to get a shock collar to leave on my dog when she was unsupervised, which I told him I was uncomfortable with, he suggested I locked my dog in the one bedroom with a small window she couldn’t see out of, and he told me not to be upset. He was delivering me with a Notice to End my Tenancy a week before Christmas in a town with a 1% vacancy rate.

One of the time periods where the neighbour claimed Luna was barking, my partner had been home. During another documented complaint, the neighbour had contacted my landlord five minutes after I had messaged her back telling her I was leaving where I was to come home, as she had texted me informing me that Luna was barking. She didn’t even give me a chance.

We’d been in communication about this brand new issue my five-year-old dog was apparently suddenly having in a building she had lived in for three years. I had communicated to the neighbour the efforts I was taking to address the issue: working with my dog when I was home on making no sound at all, ever (she only ever barked when someone knocked on the door or when the dog across the hall went out), blocking off the one room where she could see out the window, and working from home 90% of the time.

That was something that was starting to be a little triggering. For about a month, half the time I would leave my apartment (which was barely ever, thanks to a lovely combo of chronic pain and chronic anxiety and depression), the neighbour would text me to say “Luna is on a barking spree”. I would thank her for letting me know, and let her know that I would get home as soon as possible. Whenever I was out for a reason aside from work, I left what I was doing and immediately came home to my silent dog.

I started to do some tests, in the hope of better understanding the issue. I would walk up the stairs, loudly, to see if that was enough to trigger Luna to bark. It wasn’t. I knew that ringing the buzzer or knocking on the door would trigger barking (because she’s a dog), but the barking never went on for more than a couple minutes, at most. I stood out back and had a smoke and called a friend on the phone. No barking. On this form, it claims that she was barking continuously for spans of 90 minutes or more. I asked another neighbour, directly across the hall, if it was an issue, and she said that it wasn’t. As far as I was aware, this had never been an issue before, and I was actively working on it (under the assumption that it was true). My landlord himself had spoken to me once, about three weeks ago, about receiving a call out of concern (not a complaint) because Luna was barking, which was so unusual for her.

But apparently it was a big enough issue this past weekend that it was ground to threaten eviction.

Before we lived in this apartment, we had spent three months homeless living out of backpacks in a generous and awesome couple of friends’ spare bedroom after having a falling out with a friend who had told us we could rent a spare room in the house he owned while we got on our feet after moving to Northumberland County. For three months, I learned that there is nothing more scary than feeling fucked up and having nowhere that was safe or yours to go to feel those fucked up feelings and cope with them.

We weren’t bad tenants. I openly utilize (legally prescribed) medical cannabis to treat my health issues, and I have a (sweet, loving, obedient) dog who is selectively aggressive with other dogs and apparently sometimes barks (!?). So I keep my dog on a leash and work actively with her and invite people to contact me regularly if there is anything we are doing that inconvenienced them in any way. I’ve lost track of how many times I have given my phone number to all of my neighbours. I really tried to go out of my way to have a good relationship with my neighbours in the building.

I was almost always home. I was trying to work on some freelance art and writing and other creative projects while doing a lot of work with a local charity that is important to me. And I was trying to manage my (both physical and mental) health. And now I’m sitting in my living room at 4:55 a.m. having an anxiety attack because this home I am building is threatened (even abstractly) and I’ve been rejected yet again in a huge way from this place where my partner and I so desperately want to build a life.

And mom’s still dead, and someone violated my body without my consent a really long time ago, and I still want to die sometimes, and no one believed in me enough to hire me, and no school believes in me enough to accept me, and I’m still in pain every day, and everyone is still singing the same bullshit Christmas songs and watching bullshit Christmas movies.

I’m still here.

Writing instead of losing my fucking mind. One foot in front of the other. Hoping I have a community behind me.

there have been
so many nights
where I have sat
awake
watching the sun rise
through swollen eyes
irritated by
the makeup I didn’t take off
the night before
when I fell asleep
feeling sore and
uninspired
unable to write anything
or try to gain confidence
in something I used to be
good at
where I have finally
been able to
sit beside myself
and wait
out
this
loathing
self
it
has
to
pass
minute by minute
I count down
by the clock app
on my cell phone
the friend I most
want to let go
disconnect to connect
even if it turns out
that the only connection
I can trust
is me
sitting beside myself
resenting the sunlight.