The Youth/Elders Project: Lila Pine and Jordan Campbell tease a unique theatrical experience
by DREW ROWSOME & RAYMOND HRELKIO -Production photos by Tanja Tiziana
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is creating theatrical magic out of age, one of the many taboos in the gay community. Partnered with The 519 and the Senior Pride Network, director Evalyn Parry (Gertrude and Alice) with LeeLee Davis and Vanessa Dunn, are shaping experiences across the divisions and similarities of time into a provocative presentation: The Youth/Elder Project.
Two of the participants/performers, a 'youth' and an 'elder' - Dr. Lila Pine (BA, MFA, Ph.D) who is an Associate Professor of New Media at Ryerson University and Jordan Campbell who is a "Gay, bisexual, try-sexual, polyamorous, party-amorous, male (sometimes) human (for now)" and is "half of xLq, a body of POP ART performance" as well as working "with young people in various creative ways" - share what the process was like and offer a few, very few, teasers.
Drew Rowsome: How did you come to be involved in The Youth/Elders Project?
Jordan Campbell: I heard about the project online and knew right away it was going to be a special and exciting experience. I could not have predicted how deep we would go and how quickly we would go there. I'm so honoured to be part of this phase of the project. It's been a pleasure.
Lila Pine: I've never been on stage and I wanted to challenge myself to do something new, something outside of my comfort zone.
One of the participants is an acquaintance from years (decades) ago, so I am guessing he is considered an "elder." How does one qualify as a youth or an elder?
Jordan Campbell: Ultimately it's up to you! One of the 'elders' in the project sometimes self identifies as a 'junior senior.' And one of the youth says she sometimes feels like an elder, or relates more to the elders' experience. Age is just a number. The 'youth' involved in the show now, are aged 19-30, the 'elders' are aged 55-73. We are all people with a lot in common and we are also very different from each other, regardless of age.
Lila Pine: In my community Elders are recognized as people who hold special knowledge. Many are older, but that is not a requirement. For this project elders are defined as 55 plus and youth as under 25.
What was the most surprising thing you learned from participating in The Youth/Elders Project?
Jordan Campbell: I didn't know that some older queers have trouble with the word 'queer,' because of how it was used as an attack against them. Also, I learned that many queer seniors in long-term care facilities are forced back in the closet to avoid discrimination, which is heartbreaking.
Lila Pine: I was surprised at the loneliness I encountered — many of the elders felt lonely — many of the youth felt alone — or so it seemed when we started out.
What do you hope that an audience gets from The Youth/Elders Project? What do you hope they feel?
Jordan Campbell: Sense of community. Sense of belonging. A sense of the wide breadth of queer experiences in this city. Learning something new. Relating to someone's experience they couldn't previously understand. A connection to past and future. A glimpse at a diverse, functional community which communicates openly and respectfully.
Lila Pine: I don't know. I guess it would be nice if people begin to question themselves. I would like to be in the audience, so I can see what they see.
Has the experience of working on the The Youth/Elders Project changed you viewpoint on youth? Elders? Theatre? Your own life?
Jordan Campbell: I am now able to empathize more deeply with our queer elders as they've been humanized for me. It's really important to stay connected to a wide range of our queer history, or it will be erased and/or forgotten. I also realize how much queer youth still struggle, even in Toronto. I've had to come to accept that even though we have a lot of privilege here and now, it's okay to own your struggles and it's not always easy.
Lila Pine: Yes.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
Jordan Campbell: When we all walk out together at the beginning and look at the audience.
Lila Pine: So many — it changes every time we do it.
The most heartbreaking moment in the show?
Jordan Campbell: You'll have to come and see
Lila Pine: There is a moment that is more than heartbreaking for me. I won't say what it is though.