High Quality Art Promoting Important Social Issues

AFA & Clara's Big Ride

Andrew RootComment

Clara Hughes takes the stage as the Erasing the Stigma dancers take the front row

10am: The crew arrives at Fleming College, lugging a borrowed spotlight and two truckloads of props, costumes, and tech gear that have been in storage since October.

11am: The stage has been mostly set up. The lighting team (Sarah Tye & Lindsay Unterlander) have maxed out the potential of the five lights that the venue has to offer, and are dealing with the reality of getting a mild shock during every lighting change. Sound set-up is going well. Spirits are high. The crew's desperate cries for more coffee are answered by the kind and congenial staff at Fleming.

Noon: The dancers begin to arrive and rehearse. The realities of the carpeted stage set in as many adjust their choreography to avoid severe rug burn. Director Rachel Bemrose provides the music (perhaps you've seen the video?) Producer Geoff Bemrose searches in vain for a missing cable.

The dancers practice their curtain call.

1pm: The missing cable is nowhere to be found. Tensions run high. Where the heck is that cable? Dancers continue to revise their choreography. A plug comes loose from the wall, crashing projection designer Andrew Root's computer. Everyone agrees that we should order some pizza for dinner.

2pm: A documentary crew films the rehearsal process and interviews Rachel Bemrose and Stacey Reeds about their involvement in Erasing the Stigma. Despite looking fabulous, Rachel still dislikes appearing on camera. The lost cable is found. There is much rejoicing amongst the crew.

3pm: AFA board members Marsala Lukianchuk and Justin Boyd offer suggestions regarding the lighting of the final number. Costume designer Diana Stephens inspects the dozens of costumes needed for the run through. Stage manager Justina Pabritsaite rouses the napping dancers and makes adjustments to the set pieces. More coffee is requested.

4pm: First run through of the show! Dancers suffer minor injuries and the computer crashes once more, but the director and producer are satisfied. Do we have time to run the show a second time? NOPE.

5pm: The run through is completed and a few minor issues are sorted out. Confusion mounts over the pizza! Has it been delivered to the Fleming Campus in Cobourg? How many have been ordered? Will the languishing ETS crew survive another hour until it arrives? The Clara Hughes dinner is beginning to draw in some fancy people as our exhausted dancers and crew people try not to look too conspicuous in our track pants, toques, and sneakers.

6pm: Why are there people in the auditorium already? The show doesn't start for another 90 minutes! Looks like people are really excited for Clara Hughes' speech! What a great message she's bringing to so many people all across Canada. We're thrilled to be a part of such an important campaign. The pizza arrives! You've never seen pure happiness until you've seen a group of tired dancers dig in to a piece of double cheese.

7pm: Final meeting backstage. Rachel Bemrose gives a great speech to the dancers, thanking them for their hard work and dedication. We pump ourselves up and get ready to roll out! The organizers let us know that if the dancers want to hear Clara's speech, they can set up seats right in front of the stage! What an opportunity! AFA board member Brian Macdonald mentions that "It's awfully nice of Clara Hughes to open for us!"

7:30pm: Clara Hughes takes the stage to a standing ovation. She gives a fantastic speech about the 1000km she's already ridden, and the 11,000 left to go; her connection to Peterborough; the people she's met along the way; and the message that she's carrying. We're all in this together. This is Canada's Big Ride.

8pm: Lights down. The show begins. After months of dormancy, the dancers bring the show roaring back to life with crackling energy and passion. The crowd jumps to their feet before the curtain call begins.

9pm: Tear down begins. Dancers grab their costumes and head out. Glow tape is removed from the stage. Sarah Tye tells the crew about the audience members who didn't realize they couldn't stand in front of the spotlight during the performance. Spontaneous celebratory dance parties are had. Gear is stowed in vans and trucks, and we head back home, exhausted but triumphant. We couldn't be prouder of our performance and of being a part of Clara's Big Ride.

Erasing the Stigma returns to Showplace Performance Centre on May 15th, 2014. Special thanks to Kerri Davies of CMHA for her invaluable part in organizing this event and asking us to take part. We'll see you in May!

To see pictures of the original production, please visit our Erasing the Stigma gallery.