High Quality Art Promoting Important Social Issues


Andrew RootComment

SURFACING is an original film from Frank Flynn, Rachel Bemrose and Blake Richardson. A story of loss, healing and redemption told through original music and choreography. SURFACING will make its debut at the Reframe Film Festival, on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at 11:30am, screening at Showplace Performance Peterborough.
Lighting by Geoff Bemrose
Filmed by Justin Pelletier

Director's Note:

In August of 2014, my wife took her own life. When Ange passed away I struggled to give sorrow words. As a playwright, to be without words was a unique kind of torment. I felt a constant physical ache in my chest and pressure building in every cell of my body. Four and half months later I had a serious cardiac event. Losing Ange literally broke my heart. For my children to find me lifeless after losing their mother was traumatic on a level that’s impossible to describe; beyond words really.
In the summer of 2015 while recovering from pacemaker surgery, I attended a public dance performance of “L’eau”, choreographed by Rachel Bemrose, with music by Blake Richardson. The performance was a masterpiece. As I walked home it came to me. I didn’t need words. I could tell my family’s story with music and dance, and Rachel and Blake would be the ones to make that happen. I approached them with the idea of giving them word pictures that they could translate into music and dance. They accepted and we began work on Surfacing.
When I sat down to write, I had no idea what form the words would take. The general idea was to write something that would tell my family’s story and inspire Blake and Rachel. What emerged was a kind of long form poetry written with music and dance in mind. Shortly after giving Blake the text, he asked me to come and record the words. I wasn’t sure why, but I went along with it. Several weeks later he had composed a beautiful score and soundscape around my vocal track. Including the text in the final piece was never my intention but we met with Rachel and the two of them convinced me to include the vocal track.
Surfacing was intended to provide my children with a living memorial to their mother that would help them grieve in a healthy way. It’s my hope that this film will serve as a point of departure for discussion about mental health and healing.
Frank Flynn

These Are Exciting Times

Andrew RootComment

If you have a DVR, we need to talk with you.

Back in March, Art For Awareness was privileged enough to take part in Clara Hughes' Big Bike Ride for Mental Health Awareness, a campaign backed by Bell Canada as part of their Let's Talk initiative. Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes rode her bike across Canada, covering 11,000kms over 110 days, and somehow finding time to stop and speak in communities across the country, including Peterborough. Hughes spoke at Fleming College, and AFA performed our original dance/multi-media show Erasing The Stigma. It was a beautifully lucky coincidence that the whole event aligned (one that we have Kerri Davies from CMHA to thank for).

One part of the experience we hadn't counted on was the documentary film crew that arrived with Clara. While we rehearsed, the crew interviewed director Rachel Bemrose as well as ETS performer Stacey Reeds, who was gracious enough to share her story with us, allowing her experiences with mental health to become a major part of the show. Clara met with Stacey before our performance, and ended up sending her an autographed jersey. It was a wonderful moment and a beautiful memory.

Now here's the part where we need to borrow your DVR:

Bell Let's Talk Day 2015 is next Wednesday, January 28th, and the documentary featuring Stacey's story will be airing on CTV at 7pm! Amazingly, Stacey's story was chosen from a country's worth of documentary footage, and you can watch it on Wednesday (at 7pm on CTV)! Will the performance from Erasing the Stigma be featured? What about director Rachel Bemrose's interview? We don't know, but it's safe to say that we're FREAKING OUT. Thrilled and honoured doesn't even come close. It's genuinely amazing that we've played a tiny part in this whole journey.


So the reason that we need your DVR is that when the documentary airs (did we mention it's on Wednesday, January 28th at 7pm on CTV?) is that we'll be at a rehearsal for RENT! Onward and upward! Get your tickets for our biggest show yet at!

Theatre Around Town!

Andrew RootComment

Hola comrades! We at AFA are kicking off rehearsals for our upcoming production of RENT (playing at Showplace Performance Centre, Feb 20 - 28, 2015), so while you wait patiently for the new year to arrive, here are just some of the great opportunities to catch some shows (and get involved) in the coming months! MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

  • Thursday, October 23rd -> Sunday, October 26th - FISHING BUDDIES - 8pm, 2pm on Sunday the 26th, The Peterborough Theatre Guild
    • Written and directed by Peterborough talent, Geoff Hewitson and Chuck Vollmar, this one act play is the story of two men who find themselves alone in each other’s company as a result of a serious car crash. $7.50 at the door, or available at the PTG box office at 705-745-4211
  • Thursday, October 23rd & Saturday, October 25th - the motley collective presents AUDITIONS FOR 'PROOF'
    • Following The Laramie Project and The Rocky Horror Show, the motley collective is now tackling David Auburn's tale of the daughter of a brilliant but unstable mathematician. No audition preparations needed.
    • Details available at
  • Friday, October 24th - THE CITIOTS IMPROV - Door at 8:30, Show at 9, The Gordon Best Theatre
    • Hilarious and unscripted, featuring the "bad girls" of Corus; Caley Bedore, Catherine Hanrahan, Teresa Kazuba & Dani Stover! $10 at the door
  • Friday, October 31st -> Saturday, November 15th - TWELVE ANGRY JURORS - 8pm, 2pm on Sundays, The Peterborough Theatre Guild
    • This mixed cast adaptation of the classic 'Twelve Angry Men' follows the story of a dozen men and women presiding over the fate of a 19 year old accused of murder.
  • Wednesday, November 5th -> Sunday, November 9th - Mysterious Entity Theatre presents  ROMEO & JULIET: SUPERSTAR ICE MINERS OF EUROPA - 8pm (1pm on the 9th), The Theatre on King
    • Directed by Em Glasspool (whose #CouragePeterborough campaign was a supporter of AFA's recent Hedwig & the Angry Inch), and adapted from the original text by Kate Story, this new twist on an old favourite stars Sarah McNeilly, Kenn Gibb, Dianne Latchford, Ryan Kerr, Taylor Beatty and Hilary Wear. $15 at the door or PWYC. 
  • Saturday, November 8th - THE 24 HOUR PROJECT - Door at 7:30, Show at 8pm, The Gordon Best Theatre
    • In its 29th incarnation, watch as dozens of Peterborough's finest writers, directors, performers, and technicians race to produce an entire play (that's writing an original script, casting, rehearsing and performing) in only 24 hours! Produced by Ray Henderson. $10 at the door.
  • Tuesday, November 11th - Without a Scratch presents MARTIAL ARTS FOR ACTORS - 6-9 pm, The Theatre on King
    • Kenn Gibb (Peterborough's leading stage combat expert) offers another in his series of workshops on stylized movement. Don't miss this opportunity to learn fundamentals (and some new and intriguing techniques) of martial arts for the stage. $10 or PWYC.
  • Friday, November 14th -> Saturday November 22nd - The St James Players presents LES MISERABLES - Showplace Performance Centre
    • Directed by Brian MacDonald, this classic musical showcases a vast amount of local talent. Tickets are available after October 28th by calling the Showplace Box Office at 705-742-7469 or online at
  • Saturday, November 22nd - PARALLEL PLAY - 3pm & 8pm, The Theatre on King
    • Directed by Linda Kash (Second City, Magic 96.7), PARALLEL PLAY is a comic revue written and performed by Elvira Kurt and Megan Fahlenbock which  takes an entertaining - yet meaningful - look at gender, relationships, parenthood and identity. Suitable for all ages but with honest, mature content. $20 at the door (or PWYC at the 3pm show).
  • Also be sure to check out the Anne Shirley Theatre Company's spoooOOOOoooky new season, including The Pillowman and Sweeney Todd!

Establishing Community Partners & Sponsorship for the 2014/2015 Season

Andrew RootComment

 Art for Awareness (AFA) was formed out of a desire to produce shows with a message of social justice.  As we began working on our inaugural production of Next to Normal, the idea came to us to reach out to the community at large in order to increase our audience-base and to spread our message to people who might really benefit from it.  Due to the fact that Next to Normal deals with severe mental illness, hallucinations, and suicide, AFA approached the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO).  Over the next few months, this organization became integral to our production – they helped us with research and most importantly endorsed AFA and the show, lending us a type of credibility that spoke volumes for the work we do.   This partnership helped to bring a diverse crowd to Next to Normal, which proved to be mutually beneficial.  We solidified our place in Peterborough’s art scene while the Schizophrenia Society had the ear of 600 students at one show and a presence at every evening performance. 

It was the audience, however, that really benefited.  Messages from people of all ages – those affected by mental illness or just by the Human condition – came pouring in.  We realized we were in a unique position to reach and affect people through art, and give back to a community which is strong, compassionate and supportive.  Community partnerships are a huge part of how we achieve this. We have established excellent ties with Canadian Mental Health Association, SSO, LYNX: Early Psychosis Intervention, Human Resource and Justice Coordinating Committee and Team 55: Let’s Tackle Suicide Awareness.

The AFA mandate includes that a significant portion of any profits be donated to a local charity that ties to the themes of the show.  For example, our latest original production Erasing the Stigma raised over $1400 for LYNX and $500 for the CMHA’s Kids on the Block Program.

Erasing the Stigma was so well-received that the CMHA requested that we perform as part of Clara Hughes’  “Clara’s Big Ride for Mental Health” event at Fleming College.  It was subsequently remounted 2 months later at Showplace, with additional support from Team 55.  Shortly after the remount, AFA was given the incredible honour of receiving the “Champion of Mental Health Award” from the CMHA and we look forward to a long partnership with all of our friends in the mental health community.

Slated for September 24th-27th 2014, close to Pride Week, is Hedwig and the Angry Inch - a rock musical about a transgendered singer looking for love, redemption, navigating life, and finding their other half.  February 20th-28th, 2015 will see AFA produce the musical RENT tackling poverty, homelessness and survival against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  AFA is also collaborating with 4th Line Theatre and celebrated Canadian Playwright Judith Thompson on producing a new play dealing with cyber-bullying entitled “Who Killed Snow White”.

Forging new community partners during those productions is of paramount importance to AFA.  Through them, we seek to increase our audience-base to ensure that the people who will benefit most from experiencing these productions will be informed of them.  Art is a powerful tool to move people, to educate, to enlighten, and to normalize situations that are often treated as taboo.  AFA, along with community partners, and a city full of talented people, can see to it that our productions do all that, and more. 

Although nearly everyone involved in AFA’s productions are volunteers, there are still many costs we incur when mounting a production, from tech equipment, to script rental and rights.  In order to meet our financial challenges and keep ticket prices affordable for all, we rely on the generosity of our friends in the community.  There are several ways you or your organization can support the work of AFA:

1) Corporate/Business Sponsors for our 2014-2015 Season

We ask that you consider placing an advertisement as a corporate sponsor, knowing that your company name and message will be viewed by hundreds of people. 

Prices for advertisements (in our Hedwig and Rent programs plus our Facebook and website) are as follows:    Business card-sized ad - $50, Half-page ad - $100, Full-page ad - $150.

2) Individual Donation for our 2014-2015 Season

Prices for individual sponsorships are as follows: Bronze Sponsorship – donation of $50+, Silver Sponsorship – donation of $100+, Gold Sponsorship – donation of $150+.  You will be listed in our programs for Hedwig and Rent as well as our Facebook page and website.

3) Promote AFA’s events through your various groups.  As advertising can be very expensive we welcome any promotion your group could help us with. We encourage you to find us on Facebook and Twitter (links can be found through our website

For more info please contact:

Geoff Bemrose  Cell: 705 957-1116 Email:
Marsala Lukianchuk  Cell: 416 886-3563 Email:

Thank you for your time.
The Board of Directors
Art for Awareness 


Andrew RootComment

We are very flattered to announce that the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has awarded Art For Awareness the designation of "Champion of Mental Health." Kerri Davies of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge branch of CMHA has always been a big supporter of our efforts at AFA (her energy and enthusiasm were largely responsible for our participation in Clara Hughes' Big Bike Ride for Mental Health Awareness, and the remount of Erasing the Stigma at Showplace), and when she contacted us about this award, we were humbled and grateful to accept. The presentation ceremony is on June 26th in Lindsay.

We'd like to share this honour with our community partners, everyone who came to see either Next to Normal or Erasing the Stigma, and everyone who carried on the conversation about mental health afterwards. The description of a Champion of Mental Heath is one who supports the ideals of Knowledge, Hope, & Belonging. Just by letting people know that you're there for them when they're having their own struggles with mental health, everyone can be a champion.

Thank you again, CMHA. We are very moved by this honour.

Erasing the Stigma's Final Waltz

Andrew Root1 Comment
It’s hard sometimes, because you tell your story. You tell it to somebody and then it ends. And where do you go from there?
— Stacey Reeds

We want to say thank you to a few people.

We at AFA have been lucky enough to work with some of the most talented people that the Peterborough area has to offer; performers, directors, designers, technicians, musicians, visual artists, and the list goes on and on. Collaborating on a show with that much talent over the past year would have been amazing in its own right, but we were also incredibly fortunate to be able to meet and work with members of the community who showed us new levels of bravery, kindness, compassion, and a real willingness to promote the message of Erasing the Stigma; that mental illness is real, that it affects everyone, and that the first step towards acceptance is to talk openly about it.

It’s such a complicated thing. Everyone’s is different. Everyone is dealing with it in a different way, and unless you’re talking about it, you’re not going to know how to help that person, or what that person’s going through.
— Mallory MacDonald

To Kerri Davies from CMHA, Allyson Rader from the Lynx Early Psychosis Intervention Program, David Barkley from the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, Dave Pogue from Team 55: Let's Tackle Suicide Awareness, and the representatives from the Human Services & Justice Coordinating Committee, RedPath, 4 County Crisis Centre; Thank you. Without your support, the remount of Erasing the Stigma wouldn't have happened. You have been an invaluable resource to a group of people who showed up with little more than an idea and a willingness to listen. The amount of admiration we have for you and your work is through the roof. You are all such heroes, and we hope you know how much we appreciate what you do.

I struggled for so long needlessly. Resisting that I had a mental illness, then resisting that I needed medication, then resisting that I needed psychotherapy. All these different things, it’s about getting together your tool belt. Some things work for some people, others don’t. It’s all about finding out what works for you. But you need to make a tool belt.
— Matt Keast

To Stacey, Wes, Cassandra, Matt, Mallory, Mandy, Julianna, and Dave; How could we ever say thank you enough? You are the heart of this show, and by stepping up and sharing your stories, you've helped hundreds of people come to grips with their own struggles. Your candour made the show possible, and opened our eyes in ways we never would have thought possible. We are indebted to you in every possible way. Thank you.

Talk. Find someone to talk to. We live on a planet with seven billion people, and a billion of them are on Facebook, so there’s people out there you can talk to... Find ways to forgive yourself. Because that’s the hardest thing.
— Wes Ryan

To everyone who is going through struggles of their own; you're not alone. You've got friends in us, friends in the agencies listed above, supports and allies that you haven't even met yet. The support is there, and we encourage you to seek it out. Click on the links above, and have a chat with our friends at these agencies. They are some of the most caring people we've ever met, and they'll take exceptional care of you. Or if you just need to talk, you can talk to us. We're here for you. You're not alone.

We are retiring Erasing the Stigma for the time being, but the conversation is not over. The more we talk about it, the easier it will become to deal with. We are grateful to everyone who took part in, and came to see the show. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

-Your friends at Art for Awareness.


Andrew RootComment

Director Rachel Bemrose and co-creator Andrew Root answer some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Erasing the Stigma (ETS):

1. What exactly is a "multimedia dance spectacle?"

Erasing the Stigma is a performace piece that uses dance, monologue, interview footage, sound collages, live music and projections to tell the stories of people living with various mental illnesses. It's not a traditional musical or play, but more of an anthology of several different performance styles. It has something for everyone!

2. Where did the idea for the show come from?

Rachel Bemrose came up with the idea for the show when she noticed that her job as a teacher involved no small amount of counselling students through various crises. No one seemed to be talking about these very real issues that a huge amount of people were going through. Realizing the huge amount of stigma surrounding mental health issues, and the vital need to overcome it, Erasing the Stigma was born.

3. What was the creative process like?

Following AFA's first production (Next to Normal), the call was put out on social media asking for people to share their stories surrounding mental illness. Several brave people came forward and agreed to be interviewed. Rachel and Andrew videotaped the interviews, and Andrew edited them down into the clips that are seen in the show. Rachel and a team of choreographers set about creating dances which interpreted the themes discussed in the interviews. Spoken word pieces and live music were integrated to give a variety of performances, and the show was shaped into different segments, including Anxiety, Depression, Body Dysmorphia, Postpartum Depression, Schizophrenia, Medication, Addiction, the Legal System, and Supporters. Basically, whatever the subjects wanted to talk about, we tried our best to fit it into the show. Composers Blake RIchardson, Beau Dixon, and Stacey Reeds contributed original music, and the whole show came together in about 4 months.

4. Why remount the show?

The mandate of Art for Awareness is to start conversations and hopefully raise money for important social causes. By remounting the show in a bigger venue, we were able to invite students from local schools to attend, and spread the message about how common mental illness is to a larger demographic. 

5. I saw the show in October. Will this be the same?

First off, thanks for coming in October! Secondly, NO! We've added a few new pieces and done extra interviews with members of the community. So there will be all new content at this one-night-only performance!

6. Who does the money go to?

Partial proceeds from this performance goes to benefit the CMHA "Kids On The Block" program, which you can learn more about by clicking here. 

7. Any other community partners I should know about besides CMHA?

Sure! Team 55: Let's Tackle Suicide Awareness, The Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee, The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, LYNX Early Psychosis Intervention Program. We're also keen on the Four Counties Crisis Centre.

8. Will Rachel and Andrew ever collaborate on another show?

Never. Rachel smells funny and Andrew looks weird.

9. Where can I get tickets?

Tickets are available from the Showplace Box Office by calling 705-742-7469, or by clicking here. They'll only set you back $15, or $10 if you're a student! Hope to see you there on May 15th!