by Estelle Rosen
Joel Bernbaum is an actor, playwright, journalist and the co-artistic director of Sum Theatre. He is a graduate of Carleton University, where he did his Master's Thesis on Verbatim Theatre's Relationship to Journalism. Later this year Dancing Sky Theatre will produce his play Operation Big Rock and Sum Theatre will tour My Rabbi (co-written with Kayvon Kelly) to the Edinburgh Festival. Both of these plays have also received workshops at the Belfry Theatre.
I was curious how we could innovate on the art form. How could the world of journalism help grow this very journalistic theatre practice? When the Belfry Theatre's Michael Shamata contacted me about the possibility of applying my research, I was immediately interested in the subject matter. Homelessness. As a theatre school student in Victoria I remember walking home from downtown and being shocked by the number of people sleeping on the streets. Michael said he wanted to address this pertinent issue on stage. We quickly agreed that verbatim theatre would be a perfect vehicle for this dialogue, and that our project would take a holistic look at homelessness in Victoria. Instead of focusing only on homeless people (who of course would be a crucial part of the story), we would interview the entire community. Homeless people, housed people, children, teenagers, senior citizens, lawyers, doctors, police officers and others. After all, homelessness is an issue involving and affecting the entire city.