Donations through art: Western Students use theatre as CMHA fundraiser

photo of Meg Cormack, writer of Squalls of Glass
Meg Cormack reviews the theatre script for Squalls of Glass before rehearsal in the Arts & Humanities Building at Western University

Flora Pan

Meg Cormack never stopped working on her school assignment. What started a 13-page piece has turned into a theatrical production lasting an hour and a half. Her play Squalls of Glass will be showing for two nights at the ARTS Project next week from Feb. 15-16, with proceeds going to the London-Middlesex branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Squalls of Glass explores how five young adults cope with losing a friend to suicide.

“Because we’re doing this play about mental health, it was important to me that we did something concrete with that,” says Cormack,22. She is pursuing a degree in English, arts and humanities and French studies.

It won’t be the first cheque that CMHA-Middlesex receives from the production team. They first donated after performing the shorter version of the play last year.

photo of Squalls of Glass rehearsal
Matt Butler, director of Squalls of Glass, watches the rehearsal. Colin Ennis (far left) and Meg Cormack (right) are in character as Fletcher and Dean, respectively.

Flora Pan

Since then, Cormack learned about the arts programming that CMHA-Middlesex offers to the community. Some examples include an art group and a knitting group in Strathroy.

“It makes me feel very positive about doing this play as a contribution to their efforts, not just financially but trying to present the kind of messages that they support in a new way.”

Cormack says the play explores the stigma surrounding mental health and also the grieving process for people who lose a loved one to suicide.

“What I liked about writing Squalls of Glass is that it celebrates art as a way of healing and as a way of navigating life.”

photo of Squalls of Glass script
Jesyka Traynor, who plays as Elsie, studies her lines before rehearsal.

Flora Pan

Last summer, Cormack expanded Squalls of Glass into a two-act play with her editor Jesyka Traynor. They also changed the setting from New York City to London, Ont. so it would be more relatable for Londoners. The new setting is evident in the specific mentions of bus routes 10 and 21, and Lake Erie.

photo of Jesyka Traynor, editor of Squalls of Glass
Jesyka Traynor, editor of Squalls of Glass, in character as 'Elsie' during rehearsal.

Flora Pan

Cormack says her team is able to donate this much to CMHA-Middlesex because of two university grants—The Hume Cronyn Funds for dramatic performances and the Arts and Humanities Student Council Donation Fund.

The ARTS Project, a not-for-profit organization, also rents out their facilities at reduced rates. The organization has relationships with both Western and Fanshawe College.

Emma Joy, the Communications Specialist, says the partnership with the schools grew out of operational grants that the organization receives from the London Arts Council. The grant come through the Community Arts Investment Program. Last year the ARTS Project received $50,000 from the Council.

The Council’s Grants & Investments Development Officer, Rebekah Morrison-Wize says that supporting creative activity in London benefits more than just the artists.

“We’re investing in them, they’re bringing in more money from other places, and that’s being dispersed in our community.”

Morrison-Wize says events such as art exhibitions help local businesses. She specifically mentions London-based insurance companies and caterers as some that benefit.

These types of funding programs are important to Cormack. She says she is glad that the city is making the effort to invest in arts.

“It’s great to have initiatives where community is supporting its own local artists.”