Well, I did it! I got myself a job at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. For their production of ‘Silence’ (a world premier! written by Trina Davies, Jan.19-Feb.3, 2018), I set up my ‘this is a post office’ installation inside the balcony lounge. The play tells the story of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell’s relationship – first person from Mabel’s perspective. Mabel herself was deaf, and so the layers of story we were exposed to in this production (directed by Peter Hinton), including human invention, communication, and connection, involved a sensory component, making ‘Silence’ something you experienced. Many of the letters written between characters in this story (spanning the years 1876-1922) are highlighted in the play, and so through the ‘this is a post office’ display, we enabled the audience to participate in part of the communication they were seeing on stage.
For 17 performances, I offered postcards (pictured below), pens, clip boards, inspiration when needed, and a mailbox. Audience members wrote messages to whomever’s address they knew, or could look up. The Grand Theatre provided the postcards, and all of the postage for this project. I told patrons, ‘It’ll all make sense after you see the first act…I’ll be here at intermission if you want to come find me.’ And come find me they did.
365 postcards were written and mailed throughout the run of the show. Postcards will arrive in 12 different countries, and 120 Canadian cities, in 8 provinces, 17 American states, and in 6 languages (7 if you include drawing as language, which I do!).
Only but a single-handed few didn’t mention the Grand, or recall a memory of being at the theatre together, or insert a beaming adjective of ‘Silence’ and it’s production, or write of love, or give their own interpretation of ‘Silence’ and what they would take away from it, or recommended this play and the story of Mabel and Alex, as a beacon. A heartening few took note of their own shifting perspective on disability, hearing, deafness, correspondence, penmanship, and the ways in which we communicate with one another.
My overall take away from this experience, is one of community, and accomplishment, creativity, and profound hope. From that first email back from the Grand asking for more information, to the way they supported and added such intentional details to the installation itself, to what I learned listening to ‘Silence’ night after night, to the people I found there…and then for me to show up every night, as myself, to do the work I feel called to do – it was all so Grand!!
I am excited for everyone receiving their postcards (messages of ‘thanks’ have already started coming in!). The implications of this project are far reaching and lasting, both for the participants, and for me too, on a personal level – there are legs growing on this little idea of mine, and I can’t tell you what that feels like. There is a glimmer of truth coming from that old adage, that if you work to follow your heart, the universe will conspire to help you.
I know this is a long letter, but I didn’t have the time to write you a short one. I hope I didn’t bore you. And I hope you will either write me back, or come find me the next time I set up shop, to continue this work I am being called to do.
Until then, much love,