“snug harbor” marked Smith’s return to Toronto Fringe, following the 2007 play, “The Burning Bush!”
The award-winning comedy has gone on to play across Canada and off-Broadway and tells the story of a female Rabbinical student who teams up with exotic dancers and becomes the world’s first
In “snug harbor”, Tracey Erin Smith takes her audience on ‘The Hero’s Journey’. The one-woman play is a deeply personal story of Smith coming to terms with her father’s suicide. Smith first shared her story about her father’s suicide when she met CBC producer, Alison Northcott. Northcott interviewed her for the 2010 documentary, “Left Behind”, which examined elder suicide, and accounts for approximately 12% of all suicides in Canada.
Smith is open and honest about her own journey and about her father’s life—and death. Smith explains elder suicide, such as in the case with her father, can be about financial terror. “My father was four months behind on his rent on his apartment, his car about to be taken away. His girlfriend—the one who ‘had his heart’—had already moved out,” she says. “Before he died he knew it was over.”
In “The Hero’s Journey” – as outlined by mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell, a person goes forth from everyday life into a new and strange world, where mysterious forces are encountered and victory is won. This is the journey Smith takes her audience on through her play. Smith tells her audience, “The hero’s journey is the blueprint I’m using here to share my story. One that asks: what do you do when the unthinkable happens?” Smith shares each stage of her own personal journey with the audience – from
being tossed out of ‘The Ordinary World’ through to ‘The Return with the Elixir’. Smith fills in the story with scenes of her relationship with her father – camping together, partying together, as well as the details of his suicide. Smith tells her audience at the beginning of the play,
“This is a story about hope.”
Smith was invited to present “snug harbor” at the Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival last September, where it had its world premiere. Performing at Toronto Fringe, Smith had family and friends, as well as close friends of her father, come see the show. “It has been very healing all round,” she says. “snug harbour” forced me to look at other things – his childhood, great memories. We were very close.”
Smith reflects her how her father’s life is now of service to others. “What an amazing legacy.”
Smith teaches The Hero’s Journey as a writing template through her SoulOTheatre workshops. She explains, “It is usually an invisible structure used for playwrights to hang their own story.” But in “snug
harbor” Smith has drawn the curtain back to show the construct; she wants her audience to come along on the journey, “Otherwise they are just viewing it like at a zoo or a museum. I don’t
want them looking at something, I want them beside me.”
Smith held a talk show after each of her performances at Toronto Fringe. It gave the audience an opportunity to ask questions, talk about how suicide has affected their own lives, or in some cases talk about their own attempt. “There aren’t many taboos left but this is one,” says Smith. Her hope for “snug harbor” is it reaches a wider audience. Smith would like tour the show to places that need it, not necessarily in a theatre setting. She already has plans to remount ‘snug harbor‘ in the fall of
2012 in Toronto.
Smith created SoulOTheatre, 10 years ago. The program was designed to help actors and non-actors create their own one-person show by transforming raw material from their life-journey into solo performances. Participants in Smith’s classes have gone on to perform their shows professionally. SOULO, which premiered at Fringe Toronto and was directed by Smith, was created out of Smith’s workshop. Staring Terrence Bryant, DJ Edwards and Marco Bernardi, SOULO tells their stories of coming out, based on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign.
Smith has taught her techniques through SoulOTheatre privately and at Ryerson and says participants have ranged from 18 – 86. Smith tells me, “I want to do it until I can’t talk anymore.”
In her workshops, Smith teaches her participants the process for finding the gold and turning their stories into 10 minute monologues. Smith talks about one woman who wrote about the cancer that had returned. She told Smith, “I only lose weight when I have cancer.” To which Smith replied, “That’s the title of your show!” She says, “It is really about creating a community or congregation
with theatre.” For participants of SoulOTheatre their performance is the final step – it is bringing back home their gift to the audience. “The beautiful irony is this is the most vulnerable thing you’ll do and the most empowering thing you’ll do.” says Smith, “Because you fought your fucking ass off, you survived, you earned it.”
For more information on SoulOTheatre visit www.soulo.ca
Smith is holding a weekend intensive workshop July 27-29, 2012 in Toronto
and August 17-19, 2012 in New York.
“snug harbor” played at Fringe Toronto and will return to Toronto in the fall.