By Ashley DeGraaf/Black Press
Vancouver playwright Meghan Gardiner wants folks to work at putting her production Dissolve out of business.
As odd as it sounds, it’s something Gardiner’s been striving for since she wrote the play in 2003 that’s centred around drink spiking and drug-facilitated sexual assault.
“I dream of the day where the play is irrelevant,” she has said. “Or maybe even when it’s viewed as a period piece, something historical. Where we can look back and say, ‘Wow, remember the time when sexual assault statistics were on the rise? Sure glad we curbed that.’
“Sadly, it doesn’t look like that dream of mine is happening anytime soon.”
In 2009, roughly 2,700 sexual assaults were reported in B.C. out of more than 20,000 across the country, according to Stats Canada. Thanks to national and international data collection we know GHB, one of three main date rape pills, was one of the top three drugs seized by Canadian border guards between 2007 and 2012.
Dissolve was part of the Fringe Festival circuit in 2013 and staff saw it and raved about the play. Shameless Hussy is a well-known, award-winning theatre company from Vancouver and trusted for high-quality productions.
The acclaimed one-woman, 16-character “hilarious and heartbreaking theatrical tour de force” confronts the topic of drink spiking and sexual assaults.
It stars Jessie Richardson played by actress Emmelia Gordon.
“I know all these characters,” Gordon said in an interview. “Some are an exaggeration, a characterization, but I have met some of these people.”
Gordon and Gardiner have each found themselves in a similar situation as their character — having had their drinks spiked before.
“It’s my way of connecting to people,” the 29-year-old Courtenay native (now Vancouverite) Gordon said. “I became very excited about being able to talk about this, and to be an advocate and just sort of someone who is very independent and a strong woman.
“And it’s about letting people know this happens, we can talk about it and the more we acknowledge it, the less crazy it will be.”
Director Iaci’s quite thrilled with Gordon’s ability to convey the story’s many faces.
“Emmelia is fantastic. She’s a very talented actress,” Iaci said. “She auditioned … she, by far, was the best. She’s magic.”
The play follows Richardson on a night out and the people she encounters, with Gordon morphing fluidly between a flurry of characters.
Dissolve proposes to transform potential bystanders into ‘upstanders.’
“The show isn’t about the victim or perpetrator, the show really focuses on the bystanders, all the people that could have stepped in and didn’t,” Iaci said. “What about his guy friends, what about the adults in apartment building, or the bartender or bouncer?
“They laugh, grab their phones, get pictures, they might post them online, but they don’t do anything. We’ve become this society that is so afraid of stepping in.”
Dissolve toured the Fringe circuit for many years and is now gearing towards high schools, colleges and universities.
But Iaci stresses it’s not a lecture or a safety lesson.
“I’m not a teacher, although I like to provoke thought, but I’m not an educator. First and foremost, I want to entertain people,” she said.
Dissolve plays at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($15) are available at the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, ArtFirst!, or online through the RPAC website.