On June 25, 2019, I submitted my first proposal to to turn one of my novels into a stage play. I deliberately picked the most challenging to stage: TERMINALLY ILL, where Elvis the Escape King is chained and nailed into a coffin and lowered into the St. Lawrence River.

In December, Bronwyn Steinberg, TACTICS Artistic Director and Series Curator, accepted Terminally Ill as a workshop so we could figure out how on earth to stage Elvis.

We were slated to open in June 2020, so I quickly assembled a talented Ottawa team:

John Koensgen, Dramaturg (Actor and award-winning director)

Shirley Manh, Actor (Dr. Hope Sze)

Sheldon Parathundyil, Actor (Dr. John Tucker)

Melissa Landry, Aerialist & Actor (Elvis, Kameron) 

Ray Besharah, Actor (Archer)

Melissa “Yi” Yuan-Innes, Lead artist (Playwright, and author of Terminally Ill)

I’m thrilled to note that even though the scenes could have been Hope + 3/4 cis het White male dudes, our collective is 50% female and 50% people of colour. Our roots are as distant as China, Kerala, India, Mauritius, Africa, and Acadian New Brunswick and as close as downtown Ottawa. Our ages range from 20s to 70s and bring together theatre and circus performers in one brilliant show.

We had to work around commitments like John’s Waiting for Godot in Inuktitut, Melissa Landry’s tour in Ireland, and Sheldon’s scheduled research and graduate work. So we were all set for June 2020 when … COVID.

We scrambled to stage in 2021, seeking an outdoor space that would accommodate Melissa L’s 20’x20’x20’ rig. We had the support of TACTICS’ new Co-Artistic Producers, Ludmylla Reis and Rebecca Benson, but the answer is still COVID. So we pivoted online.

Tonight at 7 pm ET, please join us for a glimpse of Terminally Ill. This is a preview of the complete play, which I hope TACTICS will help us stage in 2022.

However, this night is a slice of history, since we may not be able to replicate our team again. Sheldon heads to BC for law school (congrats!), and the rest of our team may be touring or have other commitments.

And we have a very special guest: Dean Gunnarson, the star of Escape or Die and the very escape artist who inspired the Terminally Ill novel, will join us LIVE.

Admire our video trailer: https://youtu.be/QD7oh_KDa1s.

And see you tonight!