Supporting the Girls

Breast health. It’s a phrase that might sound as boring as the ingredients from the side of a good-for-you bran cereal box. That is, unless Patti Flather has something to say about it.

And the Whitehorse playwright was recently hired to say a whole lot about it.

This spring, Flather saw an intriguing play about sexual health for young audiences. She learned that it was organized by Health and Social Services and heard there was another creative educational project in the works.

This time, the subject was breast health, and the plan was to commission a theatre piece.

“Initially we had the chance to do a research project, surveying young women age 20 to 40 to ask about how they prefer to learn about breast health,” says Brianne Meister, the Health and Social Services coordinator for this event.

“We learned that young women would really rather have a focus on holistic breast health, rather than just on breast disease – more than just what happens when something goes wrong.”

Meister and her Health Promotion Team brainstormed the idea of Getting to Know Your Girls, an evening for women. It’s like a girls’ night out with health information added in.

Along with the short play, the night includes a photo exhibit of real Yukon women, a display of art bras, and a question-and-answer period.

“We often in the media see model’s bodies, not natural women’s breasts,” Meister says, “so we put out a call to Yukon photographers to have natural photographs of real women on display.”

Seven photographers were chosen from the responses. The resulting art show includes images of all kinds of Yukon women, Meister says, from young women to First Nation elders to women with mastectomies to women breast-feeding.

As the project developed, Flather says she “put the word out” to Health and Social Services about her interest (and her award-winning play-writing and screenwriting resume). Before long, talking led to a contract and Flather wrote the play, Me and the Girls, this summer.

Flather was excited that one of the consultants for the event was Shana McLeod, owner of the Alpine Bra Boutique.

“It was really fun hearing from Shana how a lot of women, especially Yukon women, don’t get new bras very often,” Flather says. “Partly because we’re hardy and practical – not that we don’t have pretty ones, but maybe not as many as someone living in a big city down South.”

A generic bra boutique thus became the framework the story of how different women feel about themselves.

“Each character tries to find the perfect bra, and it’s not simple!” Meister laughs. “It’s a bit more on the comedic side but it definitely brings out the difficult and the things we find hard to ask.”

Me and the Girls is acted by Melaina Sheldon (a Tlingit actor from Teslin), and directed by Moira Sauer (Co-Artistic Director of Sour Brides Theatre).

The one-woman play has several characters plus the boutique owner, which offers a fun challenge to both actor and director, and lots of information for the audience.

The women-only entertainment-and-info night when it goes to Dawson City (Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, Nov 4), Haines Junction (Council Chambers, Nov 8), and Whitehorse (the Old Fire Hall, Nov 9).

Meg Walker is a writer and visual artist living in Dawson City.

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