Q & A – Yolanda Bonnell

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1) Please share what your piece performed in the play ‘Silenced’ is all about. 

My piece, I think ultimately is about my PTSD that was caused due to the physical and mental abuse that was inflicted upon myself and my family from my Stepfather for over 12 years of our lives.  It’s follows me at certain ages in 5 through 17 as well as at 31, where the trauma has been giving me flashbacks and nightmares.

2) Have you shared this story on stage or in other art forms before?

I’ve shared fragments of it in poetry that I’ve skewed or mixed in with bits of fiction for
my solo show, bug.  There were definitely bits of personal stories during that time that made their way into the writing of that show but nothing this specific or straightforward.

3) The theme of the show was Silenced – how does expression onstage help with the healing process? 

I think for me, what helped was the timing of it all.  I just recently started dealing with this trauma in therapy, which was put on hold.  When it came time to write this piece, I definitely had reservations because it was something I was just trying to push away or bury or cage up somewhere inside of me so I didn’t ever have to actually deal with how much it actually messed me up.  But writing it, and speaking it sort of had me facing it in a different way because I HAD to face it.  And I never felt forced, it was a very safe process and there was a lot of care there.  I felt safe enough to sort of watch myself go through these horrible events. And knowing that domestic abuse is so very common and a lot of us grow up in those environments and it was important to me, especially as a coloured woman, as an Indigenous woman that other women could connect with my experience.  Healing is something I’ve been trying to do, I feel for a long time for many different issues.  This story, is really just a piece of a larger puzzle of traumas and histories I need to heal from.  I write because it allows me to express or put these things out there so I’m not holding them inside of me.  You have to let the poison out before you can even attempt to heal.  Expression on stage not only allows myself to heal but for others out there who might not recognize their own poison until they see someone else’s.

4) Did the performance connect to or differ from other healing work you’ve done in the past?

Oh it was definitely different.  I mean, I’ve always used storytelling to heal – writing poetry, plays, stories – all sorts of things, but I removed myself from them so that I was safe in my art.  I didn’t want to be confessional because for me, that’s not what my stories are about.  There is always a part of me in my writing and if you’ve known me for a long time, you can pick those things out and know which parts are me 100%.  This performance was me (or the character of me that I was portraying) and my experiences straight up.  It was similar to what I do in the sense that it is storytelling, but it’s the means of telling the story and writing style that’s different.  Not better or worse, just different.  I’ve definitely come out a different person now and look back on what I went through from a different lens.  All of the other women in this show helped me do that.

Miigwetch/Thank you, Yolanda Bonnell
Performer * Playwright * Arts Administrator

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