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Transforming Stories, Driving Change

Transforming Stories, Driving Change community performances are developed during eight to twelve week performance creation workshop series. The Transforming Stories researchers team conducts performance creation workshop series in consultation and collaboration with community partners, community self-advocates, social service providers and artists. Following each community performance the research team hosts a series of post-performance activities designed to engage audiences in reflection and dialogue. Additional follow-up with participant performers and audience members is undertaken through individual interviews, online surveys, and group reflection sessions.

Choose Your Destination

  • Erskine Presbyterian Church, 19 Pearl St. N., May 4, 2019.

is a play created with youth connected to Good Shepherd Youth Services. It tells the story of four young women from different backgrounds, all living in a city much like Hamilton. While they are not friends at the beginning of the story, they frequently cross paths on a bus travelling the “Choose Your Destination” line. As they get off and on the bus – frustrated that they can’t afford a place to live, trying hard to get more hours at work, navigating food banks and social services, betrayed by many of the adults around them – we come to see why their dream, so simple, is also so powerful: they want the chance to relax together, somewhere safe.

“Choose Your Destination” (top right) and “Dreaming” (bottom left). Sketches by Sarah Adjekum.

When My Home Is Your Business

  • Gathering on Art, Development, and Gentrification, Nov. 11, 2018.
  • Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness National Conference, Nov. 5, 2018.
  • McMaster Centre for Continuing Education, May 2, 2018.

When My Home Is Your Business is a play created with people involved in the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton's Displacements Project – people who know about the difficulties of holding on to decent rental accommodations in a rapidly changing Hamilton. It asks questions about what happens when you think of a place as home, but to the people who own the building, it’s just another business opportunity. Can neighbours work together to make a home in a profit-centred enterprise? Can they do it even if they’re not the best of friends? Whose business is it if they can’t, or if they do?

We Need To Talk!

  • Social Work 1A06, McMaster University, Feb. 28, 2017.
  • Social Work & Labour Studies 2B03, McMaster University, Feb. 8, 2016.

Transforming Hamilton Stories pilot project We Need To Talk! is a play created with women connected to the Women’s Housing and Planning Collaborative Advisory. The performance shows five women repeatedly approaching three different social service agencies (Income Support, a Foodbank, and Housing Support) to get help with the many things they must juggle, which are symbolized on stage by the five or six large paper mâché rocks that each woman carries with her at all times. Unfortunately, as the performance demonstrates, the small boxes the agencies can make available are rarely big enough to contain the rocks and are very hard to access for women who already have their hands full.  Frustration mounts through the performance until the women look at each other, drop all the rocks on the agency tables, drop out of character, and say directly to the audience: “This isn’t working.  We need to talk!”

“We Need To Talk!” Water colour sketch by Melanie Skene.

All Of Us Together

David Braley Health Sciences Centre, McMaster University, June 12, 2017

Created with participant-performers recruited from Speak Now, the Speakers’ Bureau of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, the Transforming Hamilton Stories pilot project All Of Us Together explores what Hamilton might look like if people came together to help each other address social concerns. The performance begins with each performer holding a ball of coloured ribbon that contains a story of a city. The ribbons tangle as play’s four characters tell of their struggles with healthcare, landlords, hunger, and parenting in face of poverty. Dreams for a better future risk being caught within the knotted tangle of difficult social conditions until the performers start to look out for one another by weaving webs of connection. In the performance’s closing scene the performers drop out of character, look out at the audience, and ask, “Who will you stand beside?” and “Whose dreams will you fight for?” The scene ends with the performers toss their ribbons out to the audience as an invitation to participate the community web of solidarity.

Participating as an audience member in a Transforming Stories, Driving Change research project

The Transforming Stories, Driving Change project focuses on performance as a research strategy.
The project goals are to:
  • Involve more and different kinds of people in public talk about their visions for Hamilton’s future
  • Focus attention on the ways expectations about public discussions make it easier for some speakers and stories to be heard and exclude others.  We want to call attention to these expectations so they can be considered and challenged.
  • Build solidarity between communities 
If you attend a Transforming Stories, Driving Change production and wish to participate in this research as an audience member here's what's involved:
  • Watching the play
  • Participating in a facilitated post-performance discussion and activities
For more details about what it means to participate in this project as an audience member, please refer to our Audience Letter of Information. If you have any questions about this project, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Catherine Graham (, Dr. Chris Sinding ( or Dr. Helene Vosters (
Transforming Stories, Driving Change performances are created as part of a research and performance initiative led by researchers from the McMaster University School of Social Work and School of the Arts, the Good Shepherd Centres, and the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, with collaboration from the Hamilton Community Foundation. The project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development grant.
If you have any questions, email: