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Some of the performers at a rehearsal of Chatroom.

LOCAL performance company, Mad Swan Productions, with support from Headspace and Ballarat Community Health, are presenting Chatroom by Enda Walsh in Ballarat at the PO Box Theatre on June 15 and June 18.

A production of the play will be used to open a community conversation about cyber bullying and youth suicide. The new Ballarat-based company is working with a cast of teenagers to tell the story of six young people who meet online.

With support from Headspace and Ballarat Community Health, a discussion with an expert panel will follow each performance.

The post show conversations are aimed at getting families and the wider community to talk about the strategies they can employ to increase protective factors for young people. Take-home materials are also provided, with contact numbers for crisis situations. Chatroom is about six teenagers who meet online. The play is funny and engaging, moving from conversations about Willy Wonka and Harry Potter to the darker subjects of depression and suicide. Both cyber bullying and suicide are significant issues for young people, and there are a range of programs to support young people around these concerns. The presentation of the play Chatroom is different because Mad Swan invites young people and their parents to watch the play together, and then to be part of a conversation to open up the issues and to pro vide strategies for support. ‘Theatre involves people emotionally as well as intellectually, so Chatroom gives the audience the chance to work through a range of feelings and then channel these into making a difference,” says Mary-Rose McLaren, Creative Director of Mad Swan. This production of Chatroom brings nine talented teenagers to the stage: Mady Gay, Max Rushton, Quinn Muller, Tristan Broekhoff, Isabella Thomas, Harrison Baker, Rachael Shelton, Quinten Henderson and Caitlin Vercoe. These young actors were selected by audition and have been rehearsing since February. They come from a variety of schools in Ballarat, Daylesford, and Bacchus Marsh. ‘This is an amazing group of young actors, and they bring honesty and energy to their performances,” says Alexandra Meerbach, Artistic Director of Mad Swan. Mad Swan Productions is a new Ballarat production company, headed by Mary-Rose McLaren and Alexandra Meerbach. McLaren and Meerbach are Drama teachers in Ballarat, who are both also theatre practitioners and academics. Their aim is to use theatre to make a difference in the communities in which they live and work.

Mad Swan Productions’ Chatroom is supported by a community impact grant from the City of Ballarat. If this article has been distressing for you, the following contacts may be helpful:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or visit: lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or visit: beyondblue.org.au

 

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