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New performance piece at 4TH SPACE focuses on healing from community trauma

JAN. 10, 15 and 17: The Murder Next Door uses live performance and actual interviews to examine what happens when violence comes close to home
January 7, 2020
Alina Gutierrez: “The project aims to identify a range of activities that local leaders can implement.” | Photo by Enoch Leung (Flickr CC)

How does a community heal when an act of extreme violence hits close to home?

On January 10, 15 and 17, a new theatrical piece will examine this question, using real-life interviews. The free show takes place at Concordia’s 4TH SPACE on the Sir George Williams Campus.

Drawn from material gathered through three case studies, the performance features four actors who will portray people impacted by a murder in their own community, using props and switching roles throughout.

The characters are a variety of members of the community who were affected, such as neighbours, friends and community leaders.

The testimonials used in the piece are drawn from the work of Rosemary Reilly, professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences.

"These are the hidden stories that don't make the front page, but whose effects linger in the lives of community residents," Reilly says.

The question about how a community responds to an unexpected act of violence is key to the project. Often, survivors lack the resources to deal with the situation.

Alina Gutierrez Mejia is a PhD student in the Individualized (INDI) Program who was closely involved in developing The Murder Next Door with Reilly.

“The project aims to not only shine light on community trauma, but also identify a range of activities that local leaders can implement, enhancing professional practice and public policy,” she says.

Toward community healing

The team behind the production worked in small groups to gather data about ideas and proposed solutions.

Given the nature of the material being addressed, organizers knew immense sensitivity would be required throughout the process.

Gaining the trust of the interviewees and ensuring their anonymity would be preserved was a challenge, both from an ethical and theatrical perspective.

The three case studies are woven together so that no single story is identifiable.

The team held several smaller workshops to test the material before planning the larger public launch.

At any point, audience members who feel triggered by the performance can leave with no questions asked.

At the end of each show, organizers invite audience members to engage in a dialogue about possible solutions to community trauma, with the goal of creating public policy that will help communities heal.

“We are grateful to everyone who gave both time and trust to participate in the project,” says Gutierrez.

“The more people come and participate in a dialogue, the greater the chance we can develop concrete policy proposals.”

Find out more about The Murder Next Door theatre performance, showing at Concordia’s 4TH SPACE (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) on January 10, 15 and 17.

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