In the Neighbourhood of My Heart

Three interwoven stories about people who needed housing alternatives, an unemployed man looking for a place to live while he finds work, a single mother trying to get by on Family Benefits and an immigrant looking to establish a home in Canada.

A performance in the Council chambers at Toronto City Hall.

1987 was the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Lina Chartrand, then joint Administrator for Ground Zero and the Company of Sirens, suggested that GZP do a show about affordable housing. From the beginning we decided to focus on housing alternatives, particularly co-ops and non-profit buildings.

The play was developed through an extensive process of community based workshops in which GZP collaborators paired with housing activists to explore the stories of how people came to need housing. The main ongoing sessions happened at Homes First, a not for profit building on Shuter Street in Toronto, supported by staff there such as Margot Francis. Eventually a core group of people who lived in that building came to join with a team of professional actors, so each show had both trained performers and housing activists telling a rehearsed version of their own experience.

Eventually the show was adopted by the City of Toronto’s Alternative Housing Sub-Committee [chaired by Barbara Hall before she became Mayor]. They developed an innovative strategy whereby a pool of money was made available to organizations committed to alternative housing solutions to sponsor the show. Each group was to set up a public meeting in support of their work and provide a member to tell a personal story about why they needed affordable housing. This resulted in some memorable site specific performances, including one show where the community stories were told in Chinese.

The performers for the show changed substantially over the evolution of the show. The following are some of the core people associated with the production:

Script: Jorge Barahona, Don Bouzek, Jodie Braybook, Lina Chartrand, Voltaire de Leon, Alan Merovitz, Rhonda Payne
Music: Alan Merovitz
Director: Don Bouzek
Core Performers: Jorge Barahona, Jodie Braybook, Voltaire de Leon, Alan Merovitz, Rhonda Payne, Susan Seagrove, Alison Sealy-Smith