The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries: International Women’s Day

The ladies behind The Yellow Wallpaper. L-R: Shreya Patel, Bria Cole, Kate McArthur, Emily Dix, Helga Packeviciute and Julia Edda Pape.

This International Women’s Day we’re taking a moment to highlight the lovely ladies who have put together our current production, a new take on Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s feminist horror classic, The Yellow Wallpaper.


Emily is thrilled to be working on Bygone’s 10th season. She founded Bygone Theatre in late 2012 and has been running it as Artistic Executive Director ever since, directing, producing, and designing the majority of their productions. Recently she wrote and directed a new stage version of The Birds, a “masterful homage” to the classic Hitchcock film, performed at Hart House Theatre. Prior to that, she wrote and directed The Rear Window, an “engaging and unexpected take” on another Hitchcock classic, winning the Broadway World Toronto Award for Best Direction of an Equity play. She has worked as a theatre freelancer in Toronto for more than a decade, including as a producer with companies like Tarragon Theatre and Crow’s Theatre. She also dabbles in film and tv, most recently working as a researcher for a Cineflix true crime documentary. Her next production is a return to comedy with Wayne & Shuster at Hart House, May 2023. Emily is grateful for the chance to have worked with such a stellar team of multi-talented women on a project that, while very different in style from her usual work, surrounds themes she is passionate about. Learn more at


Kate McArthur is a Mad (Bipolar 1 Disorder)/ Queer actor/theatre artist and is a Co-Artistic Leader of Skipping Stones Theatre, a Toronto based company whose mandate is to tell stories through the lens of mental health or stories that centre around it. She received a Prix Rideau Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Performance for her performance as Nurse/Mercutio/Prince in a Company of Fools’ production of Romeo and Juliet. She constantly seeks to grow as an artist and is dedicated to the creation of important work in supportive spaces with professional standards. Selected credits: The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, As You Like It with a Company of Fools; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gorboduc, The Changeling with Shakespeare BASH’d; Hamlet(s), Laughing Wild, 4.48 Psychosis with Skipping Stones Theatre; The Rear Window with Bygone Theatre.


Bria Cole is a junior architect and documentary filmmaker. She has worked in the nonfiction film industry and with cultural organizations in Toronto and New York including People Design Cooperative, Philip Beesley Architects, Downtown Community Television, Girls Write Now, Tribeca Film Festival and Mongrel Media. She explores outdoor projection, media infrastructure in border regions, and collective solutions within the design and build community.

Bria is continuously working at the intersection of media arts, architectural design and narrative. The arts always have been and will be vital to her. It’s been a joy to work in this immersive theatre project and she will be on the lookout for more hybrid, public works. 



Julia Edda Pape is a current student at the University of Toronto and (hopefully) a future director, writer and actress. She is thrilled to return to Bygone Theatre as Assistant Director for The Yellow Wallpaper after working as Apprentice Director on The Birds last Fall. She is currently directing “Maggie Chun’s First Love & Last Wedding” by Helen Ho which will be debuting at the Toronto Fringe Festival this summer (check it out on Instagram @maggiechun.fringeto)! She is grateful to her friends, family and Bygone for the on-going support, encouragement and opportunities.


Shreya Patel is a multifaceted individual, who has made a significant impact in the worlds of entertainment, activism, and mental health advocacy. Model-turned-actress, filmmaker and mental health advocate, Patel is the honoree of Top 100 Most Powerful Women of Canada, Forbes 30 Under 30, Women’s Achiever Award, Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award and Emerging Leader Under 35. Patel has been acknowledged for her efforts in advancing equity in her community, with an honorable mention from the City of Toronto. She was also listed among DissDash’s “Top 50 Coolest South Asians of 2021” alongside notable figures such as Priyanka Chopra, Kamala Harris, and Hasan Minaj. She has also graced the pages of fashion magazines like Vogue and Grazia. As an actress, she has brought raw emotion and depth to her roles in films like Strangers In A Room, Vivid, and The Intersection, which explore themes of mental health. Patel’s debut documentary, ‘Girl Up’, is an unflinching look at the reality of domestic human trafficking and was partnered with the Toronto International Film Festival and the Civic Action Summit. Her music video directorial debut, Freedom Dance, which featured famous personalities from 7 countries, has over 1.2 million views on YouTube. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she rallied 66 countries to come together for Unity- #LOVESPREADS Faster Than Virus, a documentary that showcases the plight of the human spirit, which was the closing film at the Munich Film Festival. As one of the faces of the Canadian Screen Award-winning national mental health awareness campaign “Bell Let’s Talk”, Patel is committed to raising visibility and breaking the silence around mental illness and support. Currently, she is working on a comedy series, Layla is Relevant and writing a film about trafficking while also producing various projects under her company, Window Dreams Productions.


Helga Packeviciute is an Ontario based sculptural artist and architectural designer, and is thrilled to be able to assist Bygone Theatre. After finishing her Master of Architecture, focusing on the relationship between ornamentation, transgression, and fabrication methods within architecture, she is delighted to use her expertise to help support production design for “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Helga is currently producing sculptural works in Hamilton and is happily embracing its industrial heritage and welcoming arts community. The central theme of her work is a playful subversion of one’s expectations of materiality in its representation and use. This is reflective of her experience as a woman within architecture, where investigation of craft and materials has long been associated with male dominated architectural practice. In her spare time, Helga can be found on hiking trails, cross-country ski paths, or wherever there is nature to explore.

Thank you ladies for all you do!

Reviving Dead Paper

Our latest post in the Yellow Wallpaper Diaries series is written by the show’s assistant director, Julia Edda Pape.

The tragedy in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman has always been a contentious one. On one level, the devastating psychological torment and breakdown of The Woman is gut wrenching. The betrayal she faces from a spouse who ought to protect her, the inescapable pathologization that seems to get her from all angles by all the male physicians in her life, the eerie infantilization of being kept in the nursery, and the list goes on. Gilman’s short story is harrowing to read and only made more difficult with added historical context and knowledge of the realities of the so-called rest cure. The Woman’s mental suffering after childbirth is exacerbated by isolation, stillness and boredom until she breaks – becoming terribly obsessed with the facelike pattern in the wallpaper that is her only company. Yet, on the other hand – she won in the end, did she not? 

Part of what keeps readers returning to “The Yellow Wallpaper” year after year since 1892 is the mad power in its conclusion: “I’ve got out at last”. Despite the torturing rest cure imposed upon The Woman by her husband John, she carves out moments of liberty and community for herself. While these glimpses at freedom are both fleeting and imaginary, they are real for The Woman and they are hers – the one thing she has that is not controlled by John or her “caregivers”. The woman in the wallpaper is a manifestation of what The Woman needs to make it through each day. She creates a companion that can help her regain agency. In this way, The Woman revives herself in bringing life to the wallpaper. 

The Woman’s journal is “dead paper,” meant to be read only by herself and, in fact, meant to remain totally secret for fear of punishment. Contrastingly, when The Woman brings her wallpaper to life, she keeps it a secret not for fear of facing repercussions but because she wants it to be hers alone. By the end of the story, The Woman is crazed, yes, but also empowered by her wallpaper to take control of her situation – She is not locked in by someone else, but has locked everyone out and thrown away the key. As The Woman crawls over top of John, she is taking back her power over him. She is no longer being controlled or caged by her husband.

Powerfully, the narrative of “The Yellow Wallpaper”is analogous to the real world functions of the story itself. In publishing her piece, Charlotte Perkins Gilman transformed her own dead paper. She liberated her mind by putting the pain of her rest cure treatment into words and revived generations of women by creating a community through literature and testimony. 

Just as Charlotte Perkins Gilman did by bringing her life to her dead paper – in releasing the woman in the wallpaper, The Woman has released herself. 

By Julia Edda Pape, Assistant Director, The Yellow Wallpaper

BIO: Julia Edda Pape is a current student at the University of Toronto and (hopefully) a future director, writer and actress. She is thrilled to return to Bygone Theatre as Assistant Director for The Yellow Wallpaper after working as Apprentice Director on The Birds last Fall. She is currently directing and acting in 7 Letters Since Sunday, a play she wrote for the UofT Hart House Dramafest and will be directing Maggie Chun’s First Love and Last Wedding by Helen Ho at the Toronto Fringe Festival this summer. She is grateful to her friends, family and Bygone for the on-going support, encouragement and opportunities.

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries: Director’s Notes

The idea to create a staged version of The Yellow Wallpaper first came about back in 2020, when I heard about the new Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now Grant, and thought immediately of reaching out to our VFX friends about making an animated wallpaper. What started as a simple concept for a one-woman show quickly expanded as more people were brought into the project, eventually culminating in Bygone’s most ambitious project to date.

Emily Dix – photo by Conor Fitzgerald

Bria Cole came on as our Media Producer, but that title does not begin to describe all she’s done for this project. From technical planning and projection mapping, to creative suggestions on how to better create interactive exhibits, Bria is very much a creative influence as well as a tech guru.

Bria Cole – photo by Emily Dix

Kate McArthur and I adapted the script, and wrote additional sections that could be voted on by streaming audience members, making for a sort of “choose your own adventure” feel: we wanted to avoid creating a Zoom show that felt like just a poorly filmed play, and were eager to make sure the footage was top quality and that there was still an interactive element for those watching from home.  Accessibility is a key factor for Bygone whenever we are creating a show, and while Campbell House makes for a beautiful and unique venue for this production, it is unfortunately not accessible due to its tall, winding staircase. Often I find that “accessible” options for things really mean offering a lower quality version that has been adapted to accommodate, and we didn’t want this to feel like a back-up. We’ve worked hard to ensure that both the in-person and online versions of the show are unique experiences in themselves, and encourage those who can to experience both.

Kate McArthur – photo by Emily Dix

“Accessibility is a key factor for Bygone whenever we are creating a show…We’ve worked hard to ensure that both the
in-person and online versions of the show are
unique experiences in themselves”

We rehearsed and blocked scenes knowing that they needed to look interesting not just for the streaming audience, who would see it cut live using Black Magic Technology, but for those who were watching any particular angle at a given time while wandering Campbell House – this was a difficult feat given our limited time in the venue, and meant that on top of memorizing 30 pages of repetitive monologue Kate needed to keep track of some very specific blocking, all learned in a short period of time. Luckily, Kate is an awesome talent and a pro, and makes it all look much easier than it is.

We wanted each room in the house to have a different feel, something interesting and specific to it and the story. Bria and her Production Design Assistant, Helga Packeviciute, came up with the idea of using black light to give audience members a chance to explore and find different elements on their own. When I got a black light pen and saw the blue glow, I immediately thought of old flow blue plates, and so that is what inspired the dishes seen in the dining room. On a beautiful long table, draped in a cloth, instead of seeing a formal dinner set out we see The Woman in her bed, her most intimate moments on display in what almost feels like a medical dissection table. The white plates blend into the projection, but when viewed under a black light reveal perversions of antique chinaware, sharing the secrets and fears of The Woman – things that are right under our noses, but can’t be seen unless you know how to look.

Helga Packeviciute – photo by Emily Dix

The overall concept for the show was to have an experience where you could feel like you understand The Woman’s story, you’re privy to her private moments, but still the isolation and distance she feels is evident at every moment. No one goes into her room. No one sees her directly. Instead you see pieces of her in one room at a time, limited to a certain angle and so never seeing the full story. Or, you watch online, the film cutting to follow the action, but leaving out the chance to see or hear the additional context you would get from visiting the rooms. Partly inspired by COVID-19 and the toll isolation took on our mental health, as well as the way in which social media affects our view and understanding of mental illness, the show leans heavily into the digital elements, using them to purposefully show both intimate things we would not normally see up-close in a play, and to hide others, reminding us that anything viewed through a digital lens is skewed, and incapable of telling the full story – what we don’t see is just as important as what we do.

“you’re privy to her private moments, but still the isolation…is evident at every moment…anything viewed through a digital lens is skewed, and incapable of telling the full story – what we don’t see is just as important as what we do”.

While discussing the ways the different senses could be used in the show, we considered various soundscapes to fill the house. Ultimately, we decided to have Kate’s voice play in all the rooms, to give some sense of linear story to a show that could become confusing without some thread to follow through all the different possible paths. However, we wanted to have a way to limit this in a similar way to how we limit visuals, making it so that you couldn’t get extra information about one aspect of the show without missing out on another. It was decided that we would record conversations between characters that are mentioned but not seen in the show. By picking up a pair of headphones placed strategically in the house, audience members can “eavesdrop” on private conversations between Mary, the maid (played by Barbara Athanasoulas); Henry, the cousin (Davide Sallese); his wife, Julia (Julia Edda Pape); William, the brother (Jonah Waugh); and Dr. Weir Mitchell (Robert Pape). As with real eavesdropping, it is impossible to know what you will hear, and so everyone who listens in will catch a different part of the conversation. While this will give some context to The Woman’s story, while listening to that you will not be able to hear what she is saying, once again emphasizing the fact that it is impossible to ever know the entire story of someone’s life. These conversations were written and directed by our Assistant Director, Julia Edda Pape, who researched mental health treatment of the time to ensure their historical accuracy. Julia also helped us in rehearsals, assisted with setting up the house, and learned how to cross stitch in record time to help me make one of the pieces found in the house.

Julia Edda Pape – photo by Emily Dix

Conor Fitzgerald is credited as Producer, and in the early days of this project that was his only role – securing us sponsors and creating contracts. But as the tech needs of the project grew greater and greater, he found himself learning how to use all of the technology, and set up the streaming and switching, and likely many other things I don’t know the details of as they are beyond my pay grade. Essentially, Conor handled the hardware while Bria took on the software, and I learned how to cue them all.

Shreya Patel was a late addition to the team, but a key one. As Associate Producer she has focused on getting the word out about the show, and knowing her experience as a film maker and mental health advocate, adding her to the team was an obvious choice.

Shreya Patel – photo by Emily Dix

Steve Dirckze is the talented animator behind our creepy yellow wallpaper, and his work helps to bring the audience into The Woman’s madness.

So many people have helped bring this project to life, and in a very condensed timeframe. Nicolino DeFrancesco built the mattress for the bed, making sure it was sturdy and safe for our lovely actress. Oliver Georgiou came and recorded the voice of John, the husband, in about 30 minutes, nailing it immediately. Steven Sangster generously leant us some of his film equipment, and Wendel Wray consulted with us on creative and technical elements in the early days of creation. And of course Panasonic generously provided the projectors that have made this possible.

L-R: Shreya Patel, Bria Cole, Kate McArthur, Emily Dix, Helga Packeviciute and Julia Edda Pape.

Thank you to everyone who had a part in making The Yellow Wallpaper come to life, and to all who will come and see it. We hope it entertains you and makes you think, and we would love to hear your feedback on what is a very different kind of show for us.

Emily Dix

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries: Women & Mental Health – By Shreya Patel

The Yellow Wallpaper diaries are written by the team behind Bygone Theatre’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and provide additional context and resources for the show.

Mental health is something that affects all of us, regardless of our gender or background. However, women often face unique challenges when it comes to mental health due to various social, cultural, and biological factors. 

As a woman, I understand firsthand the pressures we face in our daily lives. From juggling work and family responsibilities to dealing with societal expectations, it can be challenging to find the time and energy to take care of ourselves. But I’ve learned that prioritizing my mental health is crucial for my overall well-being, and there are certain habits and tools that have helped me maintain good mental health. Let me share a few below: 

1. Connect with others 

One of the most effective ways to maintain good mental health is to connect with others. Social support can significantly impact our mental health and well-being. I always say sharing can be so healing. We can benefit from spending time with family and friends, joining social groups, or volunteering for a cause we believe in. Talking to a therapist or a mental health professional can also provide a safe space to discuss concerns and receive support. 

2. Practice self-care 

Self-care is crucial for mental health and well-being. We should prioritize self-care activities that make us feel good, such as taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or going for a walk in nature. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise can also boost mental health and overall well-being. 

3. Learn to manage stress 

Stress is a common cause of mental health problems, and we often face unique stressors, such as juggling work and family responsibilities or dealing with societal expectations. Learning to manage stress effectively can significantly improve mental health. We can try various stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, or journaling. It is also essential to set boundaries and learn to say no to avoid overcommitting oneself. 

4. Engage in activities that bring joy 

Engaging in activities that bring joy and meaning to life can boost mental health and overall well-being. We should pursue hobbies, interests, or creative endeavors that make them happy, whether it’s painting, playing music, or learning a new language. Doing things that bring joy can reduce stress and provide a sense of fulfillment. 

5. Seek professional help 

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, mental health problems can arise. It is essential to seek professional help when needed. We should not hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals or their healthcare provider for support. Early intervention and treatment can prevent mental health problems from becoming severe and improve the chances of recovery. 

In conclusion, as women, we face unique challenges when it comes to mental health. However, by adopting habits and utilizing effective tools like connecting with others, practicing self-care, managing stress, engaging in activities that bring joy, and seeking professional help when needed, we can maintain good mental health and prioritize our overall well-being. 

By Shreya Patel, Associate Producer, The Yellow Wallpaper

BIO: Shreya Patel is a multifaceted individual, who has made a significant impact in the worlds of entertainment, activism, and mental health advocacy. Model-turned-actress, filmmaker and mental health advocate, Patel is the honoree of Top 100 Most Powerful Women of Canada, Forbes 30 Under 30, Women’s Achiever Award, Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award and Emerging Leader Under 35. Patel has been acknowledged for her efforts in advancing equity in her community, with an honorable mention from the City of Toronto. She was also listed among DissDash’s “Top 50 Coolest South Asians of 2021” alongside notable figures such as Priyanka Chopra, Kamala Harris, and Hasan Minaj. She has also graced the pages of fashion magazines like Vogue and Grazia. As an actress, she has brought raw emotion and depth to her roles in films like Strangers In A Room, Vivid, and The Intersection, which explore themes of mental health. Patel’s debut documentary, ‘Girl Up’, is an unflinching look at the reality of domestic human trafficking and was partnered with the Toronto International Film Festival and the Civic Action Summit. Her music video directorial debut, Freedom Dance, which featured famous personalities from 7 countries, has over 1.2 million views on YouTube. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she rallied 66 countries to come together for Unity- #LOVESPREADS Faster Than Virus, a documentary that showcases the plight of the human spirit, which was the closing film at the Munich Film Festival. As one of the faces of the Canadian Screen Award-winning national mental health awareness campaign “Bell Let’s Talk”, Patel is committed to raising visibility and breaking the silence around mental illness and support. Currently, she is working on a comedy series, Layla is Relevant and writing a film about trafficking while also producing various projects under her company, Window Dreams Productions.

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries provide additional context and information for our March 2023 production of The Yellow Wallpaper at Campbell House Museum. Learn about the original author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman in this post.

Early Life

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American novelist, humanist, lecturer and advocate for social reform. She was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut to Mary (Fitch Westcott) and Frederic Beecher Perkins, a writer and librarian. She spent most of her young life in poverty after her father abandoned the family due to his wife’s inability to safely birth more children. Her mother was unable to support Charlotte and her brother Thomas on her own, and so much of their time was spent with her father’s aunts, including suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker, writer Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), and educationalist Catharine Beecher. These strong, feminist influences clearly affected Charlotte’s interests in later life.

Her chaotic upbringing meant that Charlotte spent only a cumulative four years in school, ending at the age of 15, however she was bright and spent much of her time in the library, often studying ancient civilizations. Her mother was distant and did not show affection, and she had minimal contact with her father. Most of Charlotte’s friends were boys, and she was known to happily refer to herself as a “Tomboy”.

At 18 she enrolled in design classes in Rhode Island with the financial support of her estranged father and subsequently supported herself as an artist of trade cards. During this time she met Martha Luther, one of the most important relationships of her young life.

Love Life

An extensive collection of correspondence between Charlotte and Martha exists, demonstrating the uniquely close relationship the two women had. Charlotte herself admits to loving Martha in her autobiography, although she claims there was not a sexual aspect to the relationship. Whether or not there was, it was clearly romantic, and continued for about 4 years, until Martha called things off and married a man, devastating Gilman.

[Archive]: Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Lost Letters to Martha (1882-1889)

In 1884 she married artist  Charles Walter Stetson, and their only child Katharine Beecher Stetson was born the following year. Charlotte suffered a very serious case of postpartum depression after the birth, something that would later influence her writing of The Yellow Wallpaper. To help aid this, she moved to California with her daughter and lived with friend  Grace Ellery Channing – in 1888, Charlotte and Charles separated, and, in something highly unusual for the time, divorced in 1894. Shortly afterwards Charles married Grace – despite this unusual relationship, the three stayed close friends, and all three were involved in raising young Katharine.

After the split from her husband, Charlotte met journalist and social advocate, Adeline Knapp, and the two developed a serious relationship. It was later written by Cynthia J. Davis that, “with a woman as life mate (Charlotte) might more easily uphold that combination than she would in a conventional heterosexual marriage.”Eventually the relationship ended.

After the death of her mother in 1893, Charlotte moved back east and re-connected with her first cousin, Houghton Gilman, whom she had not seen in nearly 15 years. The Wall Street attorney quickly became interested in Charlotte, and the two almost immediately struck up a romantic relationship. Unlike her first marriage, Charlotte seems to have been passionately in love with and attracted to Houghton, and they were married in 1900.


Charlotte was a devout feminist who frequently wrote and lectured on the subject. In 1896 she was a delegate for California at both the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Washington, D.C., and the International Socialist and Labor Congress in London. Charlotte published a series of satirical poems about feminism and social change that were well received, but it was her 1898 work, Women and Economics that truly propelled her to fame. She had begun to consider more deeply sexual relationships and economics in American life, and this book discussed the role of women at home, arguing for the opportunity to expand their work to the public sphere.

In 1903, she expanded on this work with The Home: Its Work and Influence, proposing that women are oppressed in their home and need their environment changed for their mental health: that same year she addressed International Congress of Women in Berlin.

Today, her 1892 fictional work The Yellow Wallpaper is what she is best remembered for, a sort of feminist horror story about postpartum depression, the rest cure, and woman’s role in the home.

Controversial Beliefs: Euthanasia and Eugenics

In many ways Charlotte was a progressive, liberal leader of her time, however her beliefs that the presence of a large Black American minority was a “sociological problem” was undeniably racist and problematic. For her part, she acknowledged that the unfortunate situations (poverty, segregation) Black Americans found themselves in was the fault of White Americans, and recognized the role slavery had in systemic racism. Her Wikipedia article states:

Gilman was unequivocal about the ills of slavery and the wrongs which many White Americans had done to Black Americans, stating that irrespective of any crimes committed by Black Americans, “[Whites] were the original offender, and have a list of injuries to [Black Americans], greatly outnumbering the counter list.

However, it was her proposed solutions to this that were disturbing. She suggested that Black citizens who were not “self-supporting”, or who were “actual criminals” be enlisted into a quasi-military force and made to work in agriculture or infrastructure until they gained skills that were deemed good enough to allow them to “graduate with honours”.

While she did speak out against literacy voting tests in an effort to gain the vote for all women, she is quoted as having said once “I am an Anglo-Saxon before everything”, and was known to espouse eugenicist beliefs when discussing immigrants and their supposed “diluting” of the nation’s “racial purity”.

In 1932, Charlotte was diagnosed with terminal cancer. An advocate of euthanasia for the terminally ill, she committed suicide on August 17, 1935, by taking an overdose of chloroform: in both her autobiography and suicide note, she wrote that she “chose chloroform over cancer”.

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries: Indigenous Mental Health During COVID-19

“The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries” are a series of blogs connected to our March 2023 production of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. First up, a look at Indigenous mental health during COVID-19.

For the first in our series of blogs about the creation of The Yellow Wallpaper, we are going to look at a group of people who unfortunately report much higher instances of poor mental health (particularly depression and anxiety) than the majority of Canada: Indigenous people.

Suicide rates among adult First Nations people and Métis are twice as high as among non-Indigenous adults, and the suicide rates of children and youth are, in some areas (such as the Inuit homeland far North – Inuvialuit Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut) a shocking 33 times higher than for the rest of Canada (2004-2008 data). Sadly, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among children and youth in areas with a high proportion of First Nations people. There are numerous theories as to why this is, including stresses such as historical and intergenerational trauma; marginalization; social, political and economic inequalities; separation from family and culture; the impact of substance abuse caused by these various factors; and the insufficient use of mental health services due to a lack of culturally competent services and inadequate access. A detailed look at these problems, pre-pandemic, can be seen here. For this post, I am providing this information just as a backdrop as we look at the impact COVID-19 has had on Indigenous mental health.

It’s no surprise that those who already suffered from feelings of loneliness and depression were hit hardest during the early months of the pandemic, when sudden isolation, the fear of the disease, and potential instability due to loss of income turned everyone’s lives upside down. So knowing that Indigenous people are disproportionally affected by poverty, housing and food instability, and mental illness, it is to be expected that they found the effects of COVID-19 isolation especially difficult. In a recent study of crowdsourced participants, six in ten Indigenous participants report that their mental health worsened with the onset of physical distancing. In general, women and girls are disproportionately affected by public health emergencies, and according to this study, Indigenous women were hit especially hard. Indigenous participants described their days as “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful” at a rate of 41%, compared to non-Indigenous participants who compared at 27% and 25%, respectively.

We have years of data to reflect the mental health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, so what can we do to help change that? Truth & Reconciliation is about more than just acknowledging the harms of the past – a land acknowledgement before a show means nothing if we are focusing only on people who used to be here, and not those who still are and who are still struggling today – we need to actively work on improving the lives of our Indigenous neighbours. Here are a few of our suggestions, and we would love to hear yours:

  1. Support Your Local Indigenous Community: Not sure where to start? The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto shares programs, events, and links to Indigenous artisans.
  2. Donate to Indigenous Charities: Have been stripped of their rights and their culture, one of the best ways to help Indigenous communities is to provide them with funding so they can do the necessary work internally, according to their own beliefs and customs. Here’s a great list of Indigenous charities that support anything from clean water on Reserves to fostering better relationships between Indigenous & Non-Indigenous people.
  3. Practise Anti-Racism: The term “anti-racism” may be new to you, but it’s something very simple: chances are the people reading this are not overtly racist, and do not think they cause any harm to their Indigenous (or other minority) neighbours. However, when you exist in a society that was built on racist principles, simply being “not racist” yourself is not enough to move forward to equality. Acknowledging systemic racism and learning about micro-aggressions is a good place to start – learn more here.
  4. Educate Yourself: Make sure you are aware of things like the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and the National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation. The NCTR provides resources and archives and exists for “Survivors, their families, educators, researchers, and the public can examine the residential school system more deeply with the goal of fostering reconciliation and healing.”

Our Part:

As part of our commitment to Diversity and Truth and Reconciliation, Bygone Theatre provides free admission to all workshops, shows and events for anyone who self-identifies as Indigenous: for free tickets to The Yellow Wallpaper, please email As well, we provide free ad space in our program to Indigenous run Canadian businesses – email us for more information.

Mental Health Resources for Indigenous People:

Hope for Wellness: 
Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
Live chat:

Kamatsiaqtut Help Line
Toll Free 1-800-265-3333
In Iqaluit 1-867-979-3333

Kids Help Phone
Toll Free 1-800-668-6868
Text 686868 (no data plan, internet connection, or app required)
Live chat:

Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Anishnawbe Health Toronto: 416-360-0486  | 
Mental health & addiction services provided in English, Cree & Mohawk

Michael Garron Hospital: Aboriginal Healing Program: 416-923-0800
Support of balance and harmony with the medicine wheel and walk with the Seven Grandfather Teachings for a mutually agreed upon care plan

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto: 416-964-9087 |
Programs delivered in English, Cree & Ojibwa including for youth & seniors

Talk 4 Healing: 1-855-554-HEAL (4325)|
Support for Indigenous women by Indigenous women, available in: Oji-Cree, Ojibway, Cree, Algonquin, Inuktitut, Mohawk, Oneida, Odawa, Potawatomi, Micmac, Black Foot, Anishinaabe, Moose Cree, Swampy Cree, English & French

An extensive list of mental health programs for Indigenous people in Canada can be found here.

A comprehensive list of mental health resources in Toronto and the GTA can be found at If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or are having a mental health crisis, please reach out. If a life is in immediate danger, call 911 – crisis workers and mental health nurses can be requested in place of police or EMS.


StatCan COVID-19: Indigenous people and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, June 23, 2020.

National Household Survey: Aboriginal Peoples
Suicide among First Nations people, Métis and Inuit (2011-2016): Findings from the 2011 Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC)

The Yellow Wallpaper Diaries

We are now a month away from the preview performance of our next production, The Yellow Wallpaper. This show is a marked departure from our usual work – it is taking place in Campbell House Museum and is utilizing technology to tell a story of isolation and powerlessness. As we piece together this immersive production we are researching mental health, and in particular, how the isolation of COVID-19 has affected those who were already suffering from mental illness, and how it led to an increase in mental health problems for those who had not experienced them previously. We are also experimenting with technology in ways we have not before, thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now Grant, and so this whole process is a big learning experience for us all.

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a series of “diaries” that chronicle the creation process and provide insight, resources and context to our work. If there is something you would like to know more about, please let us know in the comments.


PRESS RELEASE: The Yellow Wallpaper

Bygone Theatre presents THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at the historic Campbell House Museum, March 3-18, 2023.

 A combination of in-person ambulatory theatre, projection installation and a  
digital streaming experience 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TORONTO, ON (February 1, 2023)…Based on the classic short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper follows the story of A Woman – played by Kate McArthur (BWT Award Best Featured Actress, The Rear Window) – who, after showing signs of depression, is subjected to the “rest cure” and pushed into forced isolation by her physician husband. Over time she becomes increasingly consumed with the sickly yellow wallpaper that covers her bedroom walls, rapidly losing her sense of self and her grasp on reality. A biting critique on the treatment of women’s mental health when it was first published in 1892, the story remains unfortunately relevant today when a staggering number of people report a mental health decline since the onset of the pandemic, and the inability to access adequate care. 

Directed by Emily Dix (The Birds; BWT Award Best Direction, The Rear Window) and inspired by the negative impact that COVID-19 has had on those who already suffer from mental illness, this original production is set in the historic Campbell House Museum. Animation is provided by digital and VFX artist Steven Dirckze to enhance McArthur’s live performance which is displayed throughout the house via projection design by Media Producer Bria Cole, using projection technology graciously provided by Panasonic. The participation of Kate McArthur is arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association under the provisions of the Dance-Opera-Theatre Policy (DOT).

Audience members are invited to wander the house and experience the show from different perspectives as they interact with unique elements found in each room. The order in which they access the rooms, as well as the time spent with various elements will inform their experience of the play, and of The Woman’s madness. Additionally, a live-streaming experience will be available for audience members to watch from home via Zoom, a process which utilizes Blackmagic Design production, broadcasting, and livestreaming technology. 

This experimental production, a marked departure from Bygone’s usual chamber dramas, is made possible through funding from the Canada Council’s Digital Now grant. 

Bygone Theatre’s goal is to promote the growth and development of independent theatre in Toronto through production, education, and outreach. We produce character-driven stories that are written or set in the early to mid-twentieth century in an attempt to connect audiences to parts of our past that remain relevant and intriguing today. Through education initiatives such as classroom workshops and student matinees, we connect younger generations to pieces of history they are unlikely to encounter elsewhere, while also fostering youth interest and participation in theatre production. Outreach initiatives connect Bygone with other historically focused groups in Toronto, further strengthening our city’s cultural heritage. Bygone’s commitment to accessible theatre is shown through our use of wheelchair accessible venues; our various ticket discounts for disadvantaged, underserved and minority communities; and inclusion of artists of all skill and experience levels both on and off stage, including training positions for those who are new to a role. 

DATES: March 3-18, 2023 | Tues – Sat, 8pm | Sat 11 & 18, 2pm, Sun 5 & 12, 2pm 
VENUE: Campbell House Museum, 160 Queen St. W., Toronto 
CREATED BY: Emily Dix, Kate McArthur and Bria Cole 
PRODUCED BY: Conor Fitzgerald, Emily Dix
Associate Producer Shreya Patel | Media Producer Bria Cole 
ANIMATION BY: Steven Dirczke | DESIGNED BY: Emily Dix 
ACCESSIBILITY: Please visit 
RECOMMENDED FOR: Ages 12+ | Mature Themes, Mental Illness 
TICKETS: | SOCIAL MEDIA: @BygoneTheatre 
MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Dix | 647-343-5965 | 

Giving Tuesday – Topping Up Our Artist Fund

For our first ever Giving Tuesday, we are expanding our focus on our Artists’ Fund. You have all done so much for our artists, but we still have a chance to make a huge impact for those artists who are currently on stage for The Birds.

These artists, including our lovely cast (Anna Douglas, Alex Clay, Oliver Georgiou, Kiera Publicover, and Chad Allen), our set and lighting designer (Wes Babcock), and our Stage Manager (Kate McArthur) were all hit hard by the pandemic. For most, this is their first time back on stage in over two years.

This Giving Tuesday, give directly to artists. 100% of these funds will go to paying these lovely people, who you can see on stage until December 10 at Hart House Theatre.

Click here to donate now.

A Note From Our Artistic Executive Director at the Start of Our 10th Season

On Saturday November 26, 2022, we opened our first production of our 10th season, The Birds, at Hart House Theatre. As my speech was somewhat improvised and a little scattered and emotional, I wanted to share a cleaner version of it now – there’s a reason I’m usually the one behind the camera/stage, and writing this out is sure to be a better way to ensure I share all I want to say.

As you likely know if you are reading this, my name is Emily Dix and I am the Artistic Executive Director of Bygone Theatre, a company I founded in October 2012 along with Matt McGrath and Tom Beattie. Both of them have since moved on, but I’m happy to say that many of the wonderful people I work with today have been with the company in some capacity or another for years, and I hope that continues to be the case. In 2015 we became a non-profit and formed our first Board of Directors: Elizabeth Stuart Morris was Chair, Leete Stetson was Vice Chair, Elizabeth Rose Morriss was Secretary and Conor Fitzgerald was Treasurer. While our Chair and Vice Chair were only with us for a season, Conor has gone on to become Bygone Chair and Elizabeth, who has worked with Bygone in various capacities since the very beginning, is still our Secretary. We have since added to our board Dr. Mark Terry as President, and Vinay Sagar as a member. This team has provided guidance and support in countless ways, and because of them we were able to become a registered charity in the summer of 2022. I would like to extend my thanks to all who have helped in the formation of this company – it isn’t as glamourous a role as some of the creatives, but it is essential, and we couldn’t do it without you.

Through the years Bygone has produced numerous one-night-only performances in addition to our mainstage shows. These include many “Finn and Friend” productions, staring the incomparable Tom Finn and his hilarious brother, Kevin Finn, as well as a series of retro game shows hosted by the one and only Bob Burnhart (aka actor and dialect coach, John Fleming). We have also produced over a dozen “Retro Radio Hour” shows that feature the talents of dozens of lovely singers and actors, both those who have been featured in mainstage shows and those who joined us for a one-off performance. These smaller performances still require a tremendous amount of talent, planning and work, and many have been mounted as fundraisers, meaning those involved have donated their time to help grow the company. To everyone who has been involved in one of these events of which there really are too many to count, thank you.

Our last major production was The Rear Window, performed at Theatre Passe Muraille back in March of 2019. It had been our biggest show to-date, and while a major financial risk, it was one that we felt we needed to take. The show was a success with great reviews and a total of 11 Broadway World Toronto nominations, four of which led to wins: Best Direction of an Equity Play – Emily Dix; Best Original Lighting Design – Wesley Babcock; Best Leading Actor – Tristan Claxton; and Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Kate McArthur. Unfortunately, what we had hoped would be a big jump forward in the growth of our company was quickly stalled in 2020, at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, we had to press pause, and went for over 2 years without producing a live show.

During our production hiatus, we shifted focus to develop the other aspects of our company. We always knew we wanted to work towards charitable status, and so we put all our time and effort into building our Sustainability and Diversity & Accessibility Mandates, and our education program. With the help of Dr.Mark Terry, we partnered with the Youth Climate Report, and became the first theatre company to publicly commit to following all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. When the YCR was awarded an honourable mention at the 2020 UN SDG Action Awards, we were given the opportunity to share a video that outlined our commitments. Since then, we have further narrowed and focused our mandate into three main areas: Mend & Make Do; Vintage Aesthetics, Not Values; and Indie Unite. We reaffirmed our commitment to accessibility, and committed to providing clearer breakdowns in all casting and production calls, highlighting specific skills, abilities, potential challenges and possible solutions. We majorly expanded our commitment to diversity, and instituted quantifiable goals such as reserving 50% of auditions slots for BIPOC performers, and providing free admission to all Bygone shows and events for anyone who identifies as being of Indigenous descent. We also provide free advertising space to Indigenous-led organizations, and are seeking funding to be able to hire an Indigenous artist as a consultant as we continue to expand this mandate.

In 2021, we were awarded the Toronto Star Readers’ Choice Award for Best Live Theatre, and were runner-up for NOW Magazine’s Best Small Theatre – if you like the work we do, voting is currently open for the Broadway World Toronto Awards, and while we did not produce anything last season we are nominated for Best Local Theatre in both the Professional and Non-Professional categories – you can cast your vote here.

With the help of a generous donation last season from Jane Aster Roe of Aster Roe Productions, we were able to start two new initiatives; a revival of our Retro Radio Hour series, now to be in podcast form; and the expansion of our Youth Production Assistant program. As with all of our new programs and initiatives, our top priority is with providing payment and support to artists, who have been disproportionately affected during the past few years of the pandemic. With that goal in mind, our first charitable campaign was the creation of our Artist Fund, which gave 100% of funds raised directly to our artists. It is our goal to re-fill this fund with the ticket sales from each show, as well as through fundraising campaigns, so that we can work towards always providing industry standard rates to all the artists we engage. This year, we raised over $12,000 which went directly to the cast of The Birds – thank you to everyone who donated, and if you would still like to give your support, donations can be made via our Canada Helps page.

Throughout the pandemic we provided a series of free webinars on topics ranging from producing to vintage design – these will become a regular part of our programming. This season, thanks to a major donation from IG Financial, we are launching a new program: Empower Your Tomorrow: Financial and Business Literacy for the Arts – stay tuned for details. We are also thrilled to be providing a series of workshops through our venue partnerships with Hart House Theatre.

Finally, this season will include two more mainstage productions: The Yellow Wallpaper, a mix of ambulatory theatre and digital projection being presented at Campbell House Museum, March 2023; and Wayne & Shuster, Live! which will bring Canadian comedy legends Wayne & Shuster back to the stage with the support of their children, Michael and Brian Wayne and Rosie Shuster, thanks to sponsorship from Alterna Savings and a venue partnership with Hart House Theatre, May 2023.

Now that we’re all caught up on the craziness that is the last few years, it’s time to say thanks to those who have helped create what is not only our first show of our 10th season, but the first back since our COVID-19 hiatus, AND our first show as a registered charity: The Birds.

First, to the staff of Hart House Theatre. To Doug Floyd, who took a chance on a small company and let us come into a space we simply could not have afforded on our own – thank you for the encouragement and support, and for giving us a chance to show what we can do. This literally wouldn’t be happening without you. To Gillian Lewis, who is actually the HHT Education & Production Coordinator, but who seems to do basically every job there is. Thank you for helping with everything from organizing workshops to finding props and for the constantly positive attitude and excellent hugs. To Brian Campbell for his guidance and support as we get used to being back in a theatre, and a union house at that – thank you for your patience. To Lindsey Middleton for all the last-minute help when my computer decided to die THE WEEK of opening – thank you for being on-the-ball, keeping a cool head, and finishing the program I should have had done 3 weeks prior. To Parker Nowlan, for being an absolute superstar. I don’t even know where to start. Parker has done everything from set building to programming the lights and has been there to save the day numerous times through this process (starting with emergency printing at our callbacks). Thank you for all your help, and most of all, for doing it with a smile and the patience of a saint. To Brendan (oh my god how do I not know your last name??), who programmed our sound and took my rambling, very non-technical notes and requests and made it all work – thank you for also being super patient, and for making last-minute adjustments more times than I’d like to count. And to all the front of house staff, the Hart House volunteers, and the cleaning staff who’ve dealt with our cluttered backstage – it takes a huge group of talented and dedicated people to run something like Hart House Theatre, and I am thankful to all of you.

Warning – this is where I may start to get sappy.

To our cast and crew, starting with our team of production assistants. Thank you to Ainsley Munro for late-night flat painting, to Sarah Allen who shadowed Wes and helped with odd set and prop tasks that ranged from dressing to running to Rotblotts for more tape. To Kiana Josette, who is working with us in various producing capacities and who took stunning production photos and all the pictures of our opening night gala. To assistant/apprentice director Julia Edda Pape, who attended nearly every rehearsal and provided great vision and insight, as well as helping in a variety of PA roles, and who was a part of the workshopping of the script. Thank you for being consistent, reliable, hardworking and talented – you are going to go far. To our ASM/Associate Producer Jane Aster Roe, who has worked with us in some capacity since 2016 – thank you for doing everything from raising funds to selling tickets, setting props and doing coffee runs – your willingness to do whatever needs to be done has been invaluable and is very much appreciated. To my mother, Karen Henderson, who sewed the lovely dress you see on Daphne at the top of the show and to Tegan Ridge, who came in last-minute with some hair & makeup suggestions – thank you. A major part of Bygone’s image is our historically accurate aesthetic, and that couldn’t have been achieved without you.

To Wes Babcock, our set designer who eventually came on as lighting designer as well, and had to work with tight deadlines and an even tighter budget – thank you for not only doing your job wonderfully well, but for helping with all the dozens of things that were decidedly not your job, like helping with sound cues and InDesign files – I know you weren’t the production manager, but you were definitely a production manager. More importantly than that, you’ve been an amazing friend, as you always have been, and I appreciate you lending an ear not only to my worries and questions about the show, but to my complaints about life in general. I’m so happy to have known Wes for many, many years, and hope to have him in my life for many more to come – I promise every time we will pay you more than the last.

To our wonderful stage manager, Kate McArthur, who is one of the most beautiful people I know. I am so proud of you and all your work on this, jumping into a role you hadn’t filled in years, you’ve done an amazing job and shown you really can do anything. Thank you for being a constant support in every way, you’re one of my closest friends and I could not have maintained my sanity this past month without you. I look forward to spending this entire year creating things with you.

To my fantastic cast – Anna Douglas, who I have not known for long, but who I could immediately see was the perfect Daphne. Anna approaches her work with a focus and dedication that is truly admirable, and while I rarely have time to point it out in rehearsals, I see new details and nuances every time she runs a scene, and those are noticed and appreciated. Her commitment to the show and determination to make it a success has been clear since day one. Thank you, Anna, for the attention-to-detail, thoughtfulness and thoroughness in all that you do.

To Alex Clay, another one of my closest friends, and someone who I have been lucky to work with several times before. Alex read the very earliest versions of this script and has been a sounding board throughout the entire process. Thank you for the lunch-time phone calls to go over ideas, and for coming to each rehearsal focused and ready and full of incredibly lame jokes that always make me laugh. I’m so happy to see you in a role that allows you to show such range, and excited for everyone to see what a talented and capable actor you are. I’m so happy to have you in my life.

To Oliver Georgiou, who I knew was “Mitch” about 5 seconds into his audition. Oliver is wonderful onstage and off – not only is he a talented and engaging actor, he is a thoughtful and supportive team member who has done everything from running warm-ups to bringing me allergy medicine the day after I complained about a dusty theatre. Oliver’s additions to the script have been essential, and the ending is what it is thanks to him. Thank you for supporting and elevating all my ideas, and for being a great listener and a wonderful person to be around.

To Kiera Publicover, who is one of the most wonderfully laid-back actors I’ve ever had a chance to work with, thank you for being a constantly positive and calming presence – much needed in a show as intense as this. Kiera took what could have easily been a small, two-dimensional part and built it into a fully-formed, engaging and endearing character that is exciting to watch. I can’t wait to see all the amazing things you go on to do. Thank you as well for your assistance with editing the Land Acknowledgement, and for the suggestions of Indigenous organizations to support.

To Chad Allen, who I had worked with briefly before years ago when he swooped in last minute to save the day by playing several small roles in His Girl Friday. Chad is a true pro, and has excellent taste in coffee. Thank you for always bringing focus and dedication to all you do, and for being such a positive and guiding presence in rehearsals – I look up to you, and not just because you’re a giant and an “old man”. Chad has also taken a small role and turned it into a character worthy of a spin-off. Thank you for always going above and beyond.

Last, but certainly not least, to Conor Fitzgerald, Bygone’s Chair, my fellow Producer, and my partner in every aspect of life. Thank you for creating business plans and spreadsheets, for driving ridiculously far away for obscure auction pick-ups, for keeping me supplied in Diet Coke, and for supporting me during every stage and mood and thing. It sounds so cheesy to say he is my other half, but it really is true, and I could not do any of the things I do without him.

To all who have helped Bygone become what it is today, and to all who have supported The Birds in anyway, thank you. I hope you enjoy our show and our season, and all the big things to come.

  • Emily Dix