Mother to share 'incredibly difficult moment' in new play

·3 min read

Carole Martignacco is not only sharing her family's story of mental illness with the writers of a new community theatre play, but she'll be telling it herself to audiences across Charlotte County.

The 76-year-old Saint Andrews resident will be acting in Riding the Waves, a play based on 14 mental wellness stories from Charlotte County to be staged in September and into October. Martignacco's story, which will be videotaped and shown during the play, is about how she helped her daughter Julie battle severe bipolar disorder and paranoia.

Julie was diagnosed with the illness in her early 20s, said Martignacco, who took responsibility for her daughter's four-year-old son while his mother completed her treatment.

"It was an incredibly difficult moment," Martignacco said, adding she had to pretend to take her daughter out shopping to get her in for a psychiatric evaluation after her daughter made comments that worried her.

"That felt to her like betrayal, so it took a long time to recover from that."

But now, Julie, who is in her late 40s, has a well-paying job, has taken responsibility of her son and had another child, Martignacco said, after her daughter learned how to take medications as prescribed and how to access help if need be.

Martignacco's story represents the "spine of the play," according to co-director Peggy Fothergill. A total of 13 volunteer stage actors will perform the other real-life mental health stories – all of which will be presented anonymously – while Martignacco will be a video actor and share her story that way with audiences.

"We were so deeply moved by these 14 people who came forward, who told us their stories," said Fothergill. "They are just ordinary people, and they came and they told us the most intimate details of their lives, their struggles.

"They, more than anything, came to tell their stories because they didn't want anyone else to feel alone with their struggles."

The actors retelling the mental health stories range in age from 15 through into their 70s, Fothergill said, and come from Saint Andrews, St. Stephen, St. George and Quispamsis. The volunteers auditioned for the play, she added, and then were later trained to act upon selection.

The play has been put together by Charlotte County Shares Hope, a 10-member volunteer team made up of "residents with mental health-care backgrounds, experience in all aspects of theatrical productions, and people living with the effects of a mental illness," said Heather Heath, who spearheaded the idea.

The project is in partnership with the St. Croix Theatre Company and the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick (CMHANB) of Charlotte County.

Heath, who put the Charlotte County Shares Hope project team together by finding partners and story writers, said she suffered from major depression in 2019. She was able to "quickly access support to help restore her mental health," but she said a lot of people don't receive it.

It was during her recovery phase when Heath realized that many others suffer through mental illness in silence and are alone, so they are unable to receive adequate support and resources, she said, which motivated her to make these voices heard and end the stigma by putting together this group.

Riding the Waves will be performed at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 2, at the W. C. O’Neill Theatre in Saint Andrews. That will be followed by 7 p.m. performances on Oct. 14 and on Oct. 15 at the St. Stephen High School.

Tickets can be purchased at Cockburn’s Corner Drugstore, 192 Water St., Saint Andrews; at Stuart’s Market, 282 King St., St. Stephen and at the Pharmachoice Pharmacy, 292 Main St., St. George.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal