In 2021, The York Region Arts Council delivered multiple Microgrants to deserving artists in York Region so they could realize their artistic visions. This is one in a series of stories that showcase the works of these artists and invites the public to see the results.
FLIP THE STAGE – By Sarah Magni and Jessica Satonato
Flip the Stage allows community members who have faced adversity and been challenged by addiction to tell their stories and make them into virtual plays. The plays will then be presented by professional actors. Through this process theatre and storytelling become tools for healing, transformative justice and social change.
By Wayne Doyle
Wayne Doyle: Your project is called Flip the Stage – where did the idea come from and what does it mean?
Sarah Magni: Our project was a partnership between two artists – myself and Jessica. I’m a theatre artist who runs a theatre company in Vaughan called Thatz Showbiz that works with folks who have been underrepresented on our stages and underserved by theatre education and Jessica is an author and speaker who runs Flip the Script which is a storytelling program giving men with criminal/addiction histories a platform to speak their truth through story sharing. Our project combines both our work in giving the opportunity for these men to gain the skills and turn their stories into virtual plays, so Flip the Stage seemed like the natural initiative name based on that.
WD: How did the process work? How did you find the community members and how did you go about selecting the stories you were going to tell?
SM: From the get go Jessica had two men in mind she had previously worked with who she thought would benefit from this process and who ultimately would want to do it. They both had hesitations at first but were really drawn to concept. Neither of them had creative writing or theatre writing experience. It takes a lot of courage to jump into a process like this that is so personal, vulnerable and new and experimental. They both created two totally different pieces and had two different processes and ultimately took different things from the experience but both were really glad they did it and felt it was a part of their ongoing healing process. Jessica and I were there to follow their lead and support them creatively with our tools as creatives but it’s their stories we were honoring so they were in the drivers seats at all times. One of them is taking what he gained from this experience and is now working on writing a second play!
WD: What do you want audiences to take away from these stories?
SM: So much of mine and Jessica’s work revolves around being witnessed, being seen and validated. Being able to see ourselves on stage and find ourselves in stories, the ones we tell ourselves and in those of others. It’s a rather simple concept but it’s really powerful and doesn’t happen enough. It’s the big question of the arts and kind of a defining feature of its impact; whose stories are being honored and witnessed? When you can see yourself and have your story validated you are being held and supported in a way and you are being affirmed; you exist, you matter. Human beings are storytellers at our cores, we have been telling stories in different ways since the beginning and we’ve been doing that through art.
WD: What did you learn by doing this? How did it affect you?
SM: I don’t think the learning from this project is done for me. I think every time I visit the work that was created and think about the process I’m still learning. I’m constantly learning about the best ways to hold space for others. Our stories are so big and vast and they are also sacred and precious. They are a part of us. I don’t take this responsibility lightly. I’m learning how to listen deeply and be present.
WD: Where can people find the virtual plays?
SM: You can find them and watch them anytime on our youtube channel but here are the direct links so you don’t get lost in all our videos. “All you Can Leave Behind” by Adam: https://youtu.be/9gucYShVAVs “You Become the Person You Believe You Are” by Luke: https://youtu.be/EVNpehi5ORk
WD: How did the YRAC microgrant assist you in completing this project?
SM: Well that’s simple, we couldn’t have done the project without the YRAC microgrant. Funding allows us to remove the financial barriers so we don’t have to charge participants, who might not have the means, to take part. Then we can focus on paying the artists, facilitators and editors.
Main photo: A screen capture from the production “You Become The Person You Believe You Are” by Luke.
Top row of photos: Screen captures from the production “All You Can Leave Behind” by Adam.
Bottom row of photos: Screen captures from “You Become The Person You Believe You Are.”
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Wayne Doyle is the manager of marketing and communications for the York Region Arts Council. A former journalist, Wayne is always looking for great stories to share with readers of experienceyorkregion.com. If you’ve got a York Region story to tell, contact Wayne: firstname.lastname@example.org