Before she turned to writing full-time, Stacy Gardner had a career in social services.
When people remark that this was quite a vocational switch, the Corner Brook native is quick to disagree.
Now living in St. John’s, Gardner’s writing focus is on themes of social justice and she draws on her background to find struggles that are real.
“I’m a witness to stories,” she said of her former job. “When I was working with clients, I was taking in their stories. It’s the same now. The process is just different. In one, you’re working on a plan of care. With the other, you’re trying to carefully write something about it.”
Her latest work, a play titled “After the Sirens,” dives headfirst into the contemporary issue of first responders coping with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Named after a CBC documentary dealing with the same subject matter, Gardner’s play is a fictional account of a first responder who has been shifted to handling 911 calls after she files a claim for help to deal with the job-related anxiety she has been experiencing.
The tension she feels is exacerbated by the fact there is still plenty of stress to be experienced by someone handling emergency phone calls.
Gardner said there isn’t a lot of what she would call social justice theatre happening in Newfoundland and Labrador, but she would like to start filling that void.
“I feel like it’s important to tell stories from people who don’t often get heard,” she said.
“After the Sirens” will be staged this week as part of the St. John’s Shorts annual short play festival. Directed by Jenn Deon and starring actor Vicki Harnett, the 15-minute intense monologue will be performed at the LSPU Hall Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
While it’s a short play, Gardner said this particular version is just one draft of what she envisions will become a much larger piece.
“When I was writing it, I found there was so much I wanted to talk about,” she said, referencing issues such as unduly long wait times to see mental health professionals and post-traumatic stress syndrome sufferers being pressured to pinpoint one particular incident that has incited their condition.
“There is a lot of politics around PTSD. Things are changing for the better, but we are not there yet.”
Stacy Gardner: https://www.stacygardner.ca/
St. John’s Shorts festival: http://www.shortplaystjohns.ca/