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We tried to troubleshoot for every conceivable problem or issue that could arise during our presentation…except one!

In our third year and final year, the graduating class of 1994 in the Child & Youth Counsellor Program was required to hold a one day conference for senior high school students. In addition to planning an opening and closing session, booking rooms, preparing advertising material, and organizing registration, we had to prepare and present seminars. The small group I was in decided to present a seminar on suicide (it was an uplifting year).

We booked the one amphitheatre lecture hall in the school because, rather than standing in the front of classroom droning on with facts and figures, we decided to perform a short fictional sketch. We wrote the outline and a few of the lines, but purposely kept it open for ad lib on presentation day. We tried to think of everything that could go wrong and planned ahead to deal with it. For example, knowing suicide could be a sensitive topic for some, we made sure we had extra counsellors available.

On presentation day, my Dad set up a video camera he had borrowed from one of his co-workers. The amphitheatre filled up quickly with students, and fellow classmates who had presented in the morning and were curious to see our “experiment”. The lights dimmed and we began.

Through the play we show, conversation by conversation, Joe’s mental and emotional state. In the very last scene, Joe is sitting centre stage with a gun in his hand. He has just had a huge fight with his girlfriend, Sam (that was me!) and he knows that she will be calling for help. He only has a few minutes to decide whether to go through with it. He is holding the gun to his head, about to pull the trigger…at this point, the CYC is whispering “Call the CYW”. Joe was supposed to put the gun down and reach for the phone as the lights dim. That’s what was supposed to happen…

That’s not what happened…As Joe sat there with a gun pointed at his temple, his eyes squeezed shut…as the audience sat in tense silence…There was a loud noise and Joe’s eyes popped open, his eyebrows rising in surprise just seconds before he burst out laughing. Then he calmly announced “Folks, I believe that’s the school’s fire alarm. Please exit the building”.

So much for an Oscar-worthy performance…and I’ve got it all on tape.