Erinn Webb: I attended Artstrek for three years as a student from 2005 to 2007, and then I was the Artstrek Registrar in 2010. During that time I was working on my BA Honors in Drama at the University of Alberta, where I graduated in 2011. I am currently completing my MA in Drama Therapy at Concordia University in Montreal, and I am going to be employed as a Drama Therapy Intern next year at the PTSD Center in New Haven, Connecticut, where I will be working with traumatized populations. I use the same kinds of techniques that originated within the drama community as a form of therapy with people of all ages, specifically using the processes of improvisation, embodiment, roles, witnessing, dramatic projection, ritual, transformation, and play. Now I am writing a research paper about the performance that I created, called Infertile: Inhale, Pop, Hiss, Sigh, based on my personal experience of infertility, which was received very well by the Creative Arts Therapies community in Montreal.
I am and always be an advocate for Artstrek. The first year I attended as a student I was 16 and I had only just started participating in community theatre. I knew it was fun, I liked singing and performing, but I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. One of my good friends had been to Artstrek the year before and spoke highly of it, so I decided to go. Before my parents even drove away from the parking lot at RDC on the first day, I instantly felt like I was part of a community. In my first year the play was Les Miserables, and anyone who was there will tell you how amazing it was. So many memories still resonate in my mind and body: the sound of an entire room filled with people singing those haunting words, the delightfulness of group chaos during the hotel scene, the intensity of each theatrical moment filled with emotional commitment. It was at Artstrek that I first experienced yoga, that I first learned to do a “roll-down”, that I first learned to “walk around the room”, first learned to “body-storm” and create physical tableaux – things that are now so much a part of my repertoire that they seem second nature, things that I use constantly in my practice as a Drama Therapist.
The memory that stands out the most from Artstrek in my first year was an acting exercise in one of the studios. I was partnered with a boy, which was exhilarating, and together we were Cosette and Marius at the gate. We both had a line, which I don’t remember now, but which felt like “I need you” and we were asked to create a connection, first side by side without looking at each other, then face to face. Then we were asked to maintain our connection from the most distant parts of the room. I just remember reaching out across the space and still being able to see him saying the words, even though I couldn’t hear him, and I remember how it felt. The longing, the desire for closeness. It felt real. It was one of those moments when I realized how powerful theatre was.