Entertainment Local

Toronto theatre company brings local play to Orillia

With all the Halloween talk of goblins, zombies and other walking dead, Toronto theatre company The Arts Engine takes the idea of those living unseen among us to heart.

Playwright S.C. Pinney’s new work, The Ghosts of Mariposa, explores a world that exists within our own, but is largely invisible: the world of young adults with intellectual disabilities.

The play about intellectual disabilities written at the time of the closing of Orillia’s Huronia Regional Centre will be presented Nov. 1 and 2 (8 p.m.) at the Orillia Opera House Studio Theatre.

Tickets are $21 per person and are available at the Orillia Opera House box office.

This inspirational and moving story is of a young man with fetal alcohol syndrome who falls in love with a ghost trapped in a soon-to-be-demolished regional centre.

It highlights the struggles and triumphs of a life in the margins. It’s a realistic, loving and ultimately tragic portrayal that comes from the heart, and was inspired by personal experience.

The characters in The Ghosts of Mariposa were inspired by men the playwright met in Orillia around the time of the closing of the Huronia Regional Centre.

“The animated banter and warm personalities of these men were sifting their way into my imagination and scenes were beginning to appear,” said Pinney, “and all these questions began to run through my mind. How much have our systems of support changed in the past hundred years? What is the role of a support worker, a doctor, medication? What is the role of a municipality, or society in general, when it comes to these people whose needs can be more extensive than ours?”

Although the play examines this important social reality, it’s also highly theatrical and compelling as a drama.

The cast features Jason Hildebrand, Peter Church, Andrea Cross and Tufford Kennedy, from the recently Emmy-nominated cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation.

The play was performed as a workshop reading in Orillia by Moonshine Theatre Company in 2007 and has been revised extensively since that earlier production.

The Arts Engine (theartsengine.ca), which tours theatrical projects into theatres, churches and community centres across the country, plans to use this initial run of the show to raise awareness and bring community organizations together.

“We would like to see this show used for advocacy right across the country,” said artistic producer Tom Carson. “It’s such a touching, human story that raises so many important questions. It’s Death of a Salesman for the special-needs community.”

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