Published in The Plant. Vol. 44.11 Thursday April 30th 2015
The Dawson Theatre Collective are putting on a play, and they want you to know about it. Posters all over school suggest that the show, This Is Not A Drill, involves some sort of love triangle between Stephen Harper, Dawson College, and a power tool. It doesn’t, though. I’m sorry. This Is Not A Drill is about more. It’s about the dangers of taking life for granted in a changing world. It’s about how far people will go to do what they think is right, regardless of whether it actually is. It’s about sex and love and earthquakes and Snickers bars—separately. This Is Not A Drill is about a lot of things. It’s a Dawson Theatre Collective play, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Dawson Theatre Collective (DTC) began—as it exists today—in 2004. Under the guidance of Ann Lambert, a playwright and Dawson teacher, the DTC provides an outlet for theatrically inclined students outside of the Professional Theatre program. The idea of the group is that anybody with any level of experience or skill can be part of making a play. From writing to costuming, from set design to acting, from idea to completion, members of the DTC spend two semesters working towards their yearly show in May.
“It’s a large-scale production,” says Alex Cruz, one of the writers and an executive of what is technically a club at Dawson. “We’re very devoted,” he continues, referring to the 50+ members of the DTC hailing from all programs, interests, and lifestyles. Keven Payne, a literature student and first-time actor, says “the DTC has been an amazing experience that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.” That’s a cool thing to be a part of, and to support. The openness of the group—the collectivity of the Dawson Theatre Collective—fosters an intimate sense of community and trust, things any theatre student will tell you are vital for a troupe’s success. It also informs one of the most interesting things that group does: donating all of their proceeds to the Theresa Foundation.
The Theresa Foundation is a local charity and NGO that supports villages in rural Mnjale, Malawi, 40 km north of the capital, Lilongwe. Founded by the late Thérèse Bourque Lambert as the Mnjale Foundation, the Theresa Foundation helps to bridge the generational gap between the young and the old in a place where a ghastly proportion of parents died to HIV/AIDS. The Theresa Foundation’s limited size and focus means that virtually all of the money it receives is used for its intended purpose: helping people. They have financed seed and fertilizer programs, built community centers, drilled borehole wells, funded regular doctor’s visits, and are even developing a microloan bank. What’s more, the Foundation also pays the school fees of a few eligible young women who return to return to their communities armed with knowledge to improve the lives of those around them, having learned skills ranging from agriculture to mathematics to biology to social development.
Ann Lambert introduced the foundation to the DTC (her mom is the eponymous Thérèse), but that’s not why they choose to donate. The communal idealism that defines both groups makes for a natural attraction. As it stands, the DTC shows raise a significant portion of the Theresa Foundation’s budget every year, with both Foundation and Collective benefitting from mutual exposure (like in this article). That’s the great thing about the relationship, how the personal growth of the young members of the Dawson Theatre Collective directly contributes to the growing independence of Mnjale.
That grounding of artistic work in reality is embraced in the stories the Collective tells. This Is Not A Drill serves as an allegory for climate change, exploring the frighteningly real possibility of fracking-induced earthquakes. Last year’s This Is Not A Drill tackled the traumatic effects of absenteeism among parents. “It wouldn’t be right not to talk about things we feel are important,” says Pavlo Tull, a writer for both plays and one of two stage managers this year.
By providing an outlet for creativity, by providing an opportunity for people to do good at the same time as entertaining them, by provoking thought and action and change, the Dawson Theatre Collective stands for the best of what a community can do. If you want to encourage them, go see This Is Not A Drill at the Dawson Theatre on May 6th, 7th, or 9th at 7:30pm with an additional 1:30pm matinee pay-what-you-can performance on the 9th. Prices are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. The Dawson Theatre Collective hopes to see you there—unless you’re Stephen Harper with a power drill.