In 2019, MESHA supported a drama program called Theatre for Change, a joint initiative with the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Office for Ageing Well for South Australian veterans and emergency service personnel.
Theatre for Change gave participants the opportunity to explore a range of theatrical pathways in a safe and supported environment. Developed and delivered by two professional theatre artists, Jo Stone and Paulo Castro, they delivered an outstanding program, supporting participants and making incredible progress in the 10 weeks.
A personal reflection from veteran Sharon, who participated in the classes.
“I have attended the Theatre for Change program since its inception, and have found it to be truly empowering and transformative. I’ve learnt much about mental health these last two years since I returned from Iraq and have been particularly influenced by Bessel Van Der Kolk’s work regarding trauma and its impact in the body. The fact that trauma can be hard to locate, express and externalise makes perfect sense to me. Jo and Paulo have not only facilitated and created a safe place where veterans can explore their trauma, they have empowered members to express themselves in ways that are healing and powerful.
The sense of relief I feel every week after attending the program is hard to put into words: what I can say is that working with Jo and Paulo has enabled me to find words for experiences that I have locked away for months and in some cases years. Indeed, I have recently transcribed my diaries from deployment to Iraq with a view to developing a screenplay.
I had been unable to read those diaries until now, but Jo and Paulo have given me the space, permission and opportunity to revisit my experiences in a meaningful and safe way. I have seen similar transformations in other members attending the group.
We have produced several short films and significant amounts of writing, that has taken us all by surprise in terms of its insight and potential for further dramatic exploration. I, for one, would love to continue this program for the longer term and have a number of friends (also veterans) who are also keen to join the group.
I am enormously grateful to The Road Home, The Office for Ageing Well and the wonderful State Theatre Company for providing an avenue for healing, self-empowerment and improved mental health through this program. It is changing lives.”