On Zoom conferences and phone calls, Surrey’s Sophie Labrie helped create a play that follows six youth who face the effects of isolation and mental health struggles.
It’s called Breakwater, and the timely topic was developed months before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some Assembly Theatre Company’s new “digital play” debuts Wednesday, June 30, with two additional by-donation broadcasts July 8 and 11.
Labrie, an alum of the offshoot RHYTAG (Roundhouse Youth Theatre Action Group), composed and performed music for Breakwater, and was a mentor for the youth musicians involved in the project.
She’s been involved with Some Assembly since age 14, as a writer, actor, musician, design assistant, facilitator and production assistant. Labrie attended the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, and graduated from Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts with a focus on film and television acting.
“With RHYTAG, it’s just something that has become special to me,” Labrie told the Now-Leader. “It’s been such a constant in my life since I was such a young person who didn’t know anything, didn’t know what I liked, didn’t know who I was, didn’t know I could act or sing – it was before any of those things that I first found RHYTAG through the alternative school system and counsellors.”
In recent months Breakwater was filmed at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre with physical distancing and mask-wearing cast and crew.
The original plan was to stage the play for a live audience, but the pandemic killed those plans and adjusted others.
“It is disappointing because theatre is such an amazing art form because it’s live,” said Valerie Methot, writer and director. “It’s the relationship between the live audience and the live performers that makes it magical.
“That being said,” she added, “I knew from the beginning of the project that we were going to be filming this play, so that allowed us to take liberties we wouldn’t be able to take if we were doing a live show. For example, our set design is highly complex, a two-level apartment building. We have other set locations as well, and in a live show we wouldn’t have time to do these set changes. Another plus side about doing this virtually is we can reach out to a global audience, which is fantastic, especially since the subject matter is taking care of our mental health and taking care of each other.”
A global flood is the root of problems in Breakwater, the latest in a series of youth-focused plays produced by Methot and Some Assembly over the past two decades.
Labrie’s long history with the company gives Methot joy.
“I have goosebumps thinking about the first time I met Sophie,” she said, “and it’s been a real honour working with her for all these years – I think it’s been 10 years. To witness the growth and artistic development in Sophie has been just absolutely inspiring. To be part of how Sophie now inspires young youth is just absolutely incredible. She shares her experience with such ease, and has a real understanding of how to successfully inspire young youth to express themselves, which is a challenging thing to do.”
Grateful for the opportunity, Labrie said it’s hard for her to imagine a future where she’s not part of the Some Assembly/RHYTAG project in some capacity, “because it adds so much to my life and it has these very important ripple effects that I can see myself.”
She’s now planning to record her own songs and pursue a career in music.
“I have a bunch of songs that are written but not professionally recorded yet,” Labrie explained. “That’s the next step and hopefully put an album together and have some music videos and, you know, learn how to get funding for those things and learn how to be my own boss, in a sense, to promote myself and have confidence in what I do. And RHYTAG has definitely helped with that.”