- Invisible: Out Loud by Desiree Wallace. Play performed at Lower Mainland high schools as part of the Global Stewardship Program at Capilano University http: //www.globalstewproject.org/.
CAPILANO University student Desiree Wallace, 18, is making sure the struggles and issues homeless people face are not being pushed aside by those in more fortunate situations.
"It pains me so much to see them become an invisible community that is so dehumanized by society," Wallace says. "I don't think it is intentional I don't think there is apathy I just think there are those cultural barriers."
In her senior year at Langley secondary school she wrote a play that highlighted the stereotypes associated with homelessness.
"I wanted to do a type of creative activism that would engage people in a different way," Wallace says. "I was just trying to think of a story where there was a lot of interaction between a homeless individual and just the average person walking by."
Invisible: OUT LOUD revolves around Buddy a homeless youth who spends his time living out front of a hotel. Throughout the course of the play various characters interact or fail to interact with him, thus displaying a wide range of different misconceptions about homelessness.
"I created a contrast between the clerk of the hotel and Buddy," Wallace says." He is on the outside and she (the clerk) is on the inside . . . The way they look at people and their attitudes towards life are so entirely different."
At the time Wallace was only 17 and she had never written a play before and she wasn't required to write one. Along with the help from one of her teachers, Wallace was able to create the one-act play that was presented at her high school.
"I was pretty nervous to have it premiere, but my drama teacher Chad Hendricks was a great mentor throughout the whole process," she says. "He gave me a structure I could follow."
"It was kind of a shot in the dark but at the same time if I had questions I could go to him," she adds.
Wallace originally intended to write the play for a target audience of just high school students, but she realized that would change.
"When I was writing the play it was hard to know what my audience was going to be," she says. "At the performance there was a pretty big age range from like 10 years old to 85 years old."
Not only did she write and produce the play she also directed it. Wallace says she dedicated whatever time she had left to directing and organizing the play and admits it wasn't easy.
"It was my Grade 12 year at the time and I was doing a lot of stuff. That was difficult but I enjoyed it so much that it didn't really matter."
A handful of drama students from her high school also volunteered time to make Wallace's script become a reality.
"I approached people that I knew from my drama experience and I asked them if they would be willing to give up their time for rehearsals," she says. "They were all super open and excited about it."
Aside from raising awareness Invisible: OUT LOUD generated over $500 in proceeds.
"All the ticket profits I gave to a community outreach worker and it ended up going to a family in need," Wallace says. "There was also food, socks and blankets donated as well."
"Essentially what I wanted to get out of the night was mostly awareness and that's why I created this play."
Upon graduation Wallace was able to re-establish the play at Capilano University through a series of symposiums called Justice High, which is operated by the global stewardship program at the university. Students from the program volunteered their time to act in the play.
"Part of the global stewardship program is that we are required to do a public engagement aspect," she says. "A lot of the students do this thing called Justice High which is a series of symposiums that focus on the UN millennium development goals and one of them is a focus on eradicating hunger and poverty."
Invisible: OUT LOUD has already been showcased at several Lower Mainland high schools, including Carson Graham secondary. The play completed its Justice High run last week with a performance at JN Burnett secondary school in Richmond.
"I am strong advocate for creative activism," Wallace says. "It's very engaging and it opens up these very important issues to people in an entirely different way."
She is unsure about what will happen to the play after Justice High, but Wallace hopes to bring it to campaigns and events in the future.
"It's a tangible resource that I have now that I can take anywhere with me," she says. "I've met a lot contacts and they really want to start a youth group for homelessness. I really want to be a part of that and maybe there will be an opportunity to include the play in that."
Wallace's passion began when she was a young girl growing up in Langley.
"My mom introduced me to the homeless community in Langley when I was at a really young age," she says. "I started volunteering at the St. Joseph's soup kitchen . . . Through that I was able to create really personable relationships with those people that went there."
Wallace grew up in a family of nine and was always involved in some sort of activity, but says she became very interested in humanitarianism issues after a recent trip.
"They (parents) let us try a lot of different things, soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and field, art, theatre so I was always pretty busy and I didn't have a lot of spare time," Wallace says. "I think what solidified humanitarianism for me was a volunteer trip I did in 2010 to Double Head Cabbage, Belize."