Ghosts of conversations past spur unconventional drama

ORILLIA, ON—Playwright S. C. Pinney was working at a famers' market in Orillia when his ears were drawn to a conversation between three men with intellectual disabilities. As he listened to the warm, animated banter, snippets of dialogue sifted their way into his imagination and began to rearrange themselves as scenes.

"That was the beginning," he says.

This Fall, Pinney's new play The Ghosts of Mariposa, hit the stage in Toronto and Orillia. Produced by The Arts Engine, the comedic tragedy follows the friendship between three men with intellectual disabilities and the unlikely romance one of them strikes up with a ghost.

Pinney says he hadn't had much experience with intellectual disabilities, until he began to build friendships with the men who hung out at the famers' market. He then went on to get a job as a part-time support worker with Christian Horizons group home. As his friendships with people with intellectual disabilities grew, so did the play.

"The experience kind of took me in a few different directions," he says. "The play is about a journey with addiction and struggling with disability. My hope is that, through it, people will see more of the truth of what goes on in the world for people who face disabilities, and also addiction as well."

The play started out as a comedy. But as Pinney worked through draft after draft he realized a tragic ending was "somehow what needed to happen for these characters in this situation." However he is quick to point out that just because one of character's story arcs ends tragically, "That doesn't mean I think his life is a tragedy. I think his life is a life—and that it's beautiful.

"I think one thing which a tragedy does, if it's done well, is it reveals something about us, and reminds us to take care."

Pinney has been writing plays for almost 20 years and considers the "interactive" element of live theatre more powerful than simply watching something on a screen.

"There's something about experiencing a play which is somewhere in between reading a book and watching a movie. It is creating this space and allowing you to bring something into it.

"I think this is a play full of the mystery of faith. It comes from my life, as a person who has a Christian faith, but who is also fallen and broken. So it's half brokenness and half blessed, and carries the grace of God in my life."

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