Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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The Daly Family Collective - If A Place Could Be Made

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: School Touring Program
Amount Funded: $18,100

performance photo

Diana Daly and Louise Moyes perform in If A Place Could Be Made (photo: Jared Reid)

Project Dates: September 15, 2016 to May 1, 2017
School Touring Locations:
Mount Carmel , St. Mary's, Trepassey, St. Bride's, Ferryland, St. John's (Bishop Feild, Larkhall, and MacDonald Drive), Twillingate, and Bell Island (also Gander, Musgrave Harbour and Dover in February, but via Arts & Culture Centre’s 2017 Artists in Residence, resulting from ArtsNL support)
Artist Contact: Louise Moyes
Artist E-mail:

The Daly Family Collective’s If A Place Could Be Made is the collaborative result of singer/songwriter Diana Daly, dancer/storyteller Louise Moyes, and director/choreographer Anne Troake. The production, along with associated workshops, focus on inclusion through songwriting, contemporary dance, and storytelling. Following the performance aspect, the students will work on the creation of their own artistic work through classroom activity led by the Daly Family Collective and Kim White who is a former executive director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador.

The performance content and learning concept outcomes are thematically tied together through Diana Daly’s family history. Daly’s great-grandparents were Kitty and Daniel Daly of Riverhead, St. Mary’s Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador – they had twelve children between 1914 and 1936.  Parents Kitty and Daniel Daly had 12 children, six  of whom were exceptionally tall and six who had skeletal dysplasia,  or what is currently known as persons of short stature and had disabilities.

Diana Daly, Louise Moyes and Anne Troake

Diana Daly, Anne Troake, & Louise Moyes (photo: Jared Reid)

Diana and Louise perform a specially adapted school version of their show, shortened to 45 minutes to fit well within the classroom periods. If a Place Could be Made interweaves the story with music, movement, and imagery to form a compact, organic, and potent presentation.  The show centres on illuminating the idea of what inclusion meant before the term really existed in today’s sense. The interactive classroom experience that follows demonstrates to students the power their actions can have to transform the world around them through inclusion – something the Daly family embodied naturally.

If A Place Could Be Made also inherently documents Newfoundland and Labrador culture and history through the various stories told, making it supportive to a variety of subject areas like social studies, language arts, religion, physical education and more. To that end, The Daly Family Collective developed a study guide to be used in the classroom to help expand and further explore concepts presented in the show and workshops.

Over the course of the ArtsNL funded school tour, the artists visited ten schools on the island, mostly  in areas with strong Irish Newfoundland backgrounds, like the Daly family, to further strengthen the connection for students.

In our latest feature, we chat with Louise to learn more about the project…

Q and A with Louise Moyes...

ArtsNL: How did you first get the idea for this show and how was it developed, then adapted, to suit a school tour / classroom setting?

Louise: The idea for this project came about in 2012 when I was working on another show called St. John’s Women. Diana Daly's mother Kay Haynes’ own life stories were part of that show. Kay also told me at the time about her dad, her paternal grandparents Kitty and Daniel, and her aunts and uncles. But the family wasn’t yet ready for their story to be told.

After the second self-production of St. John's Women, which Diana worked on as technical director, Kay and her sister Rose-Marie asked us to develop show around their amazing aunts and uncles. So I started applying for funding and doing research, as I do for my Docudances. Diana came on as songwriter and consultant. I asked Anne Troake to be the director. Once we got into the process, it became clear that Diana needed to be in the show as well, as the direct link to the family. And then the show really became a real three-way collaboration. We formed the Daly Family Collective.

To adapt the show for schools, we first looked at content that may be less appropriate for children and edited some of that. We also wanted to fit into a 45-minute time frame so there was time for questions afterwards, within a school period. So we cut the show down by about 25 minutes altogether. The technical side was simplified by using one small screen that looks like a window for projections. For lighting, we worked with a simple LED lighting rig rented from Long and McQuade. Lights on-lights off only! But, still giving warmth and a focus.

ArtsNL: How did each member of your collective contribute to the project? Everyone seems to have niche roles that complement one another.

Louise: There were niche roles and certainly a lot of crossover in our roles too. We all contributed to the script. I’m the producer and promoter. Diana wrote the original songs. Anne and I made the dances.
Diana and I did interviews with family members. Anne then got us to do a lot of writing around the stories. Diane of course wrote from her own memory of her family members.

We added a folktale layer to the show and I wrote those sections. Diana was working on linocuts at the time, and was reticent to include them in the show at first, but I ‘forced’ her to make some about the family, so we could project them during the show! One great benefit of working as a collective is seeing each other’s strengths and encouraging them.

We then improvised in-studio at the wonderful and invaluable Arts and Culture Centre and MMaP Dance Space. Anne led us through Authentic Movement (AM) exercises, which is a form of contemporary improvisation. Through that we developed some of the movement for the show. AM also serves to bring out emotional connections to the stories.

It's definitely not a script that we wrote from A to Z and then put on its feet. Our process is more like a mix of making a sculpture that you stand back from, look at, work on - letting the material tell you what the piece is. It is also like making a documentary film in that you have all these stories, so you work to find a through line. But definitely not a traditional beginning, middle, and end kind of story!

RCA Theatre Company gave us a technical residency in July 2015 that was extremely helpful. We had a week to get the material we had on its feet. But in the week we shocked ourselves by having 25 minutes! We videotaped that process and then worked with Lois Browne and Robert Chafe as dramaturges on the script. Their feedback was very helpful to seeing what we had and where we needed to go.

From July 2015 to the opening in February 2016, Anne then worked as director, dramaturge, and editor of the visual and audio archival materials – family photos and interviews. Her filmmaker’s eagle-eye attention to detail and cutting out of any extraneous material is awe-inspiring.

We all kept writing. Until just before opening!

Diana Daly on guitar with Louise Moyes dancing

Diana Daly on guitar and Louise Moyes performing in If A Place Could Be Made (photo: Jared Reid)

ArtsNL: When you develop your study guides, and draw connections to subject matter areas, how do you go about that process?

Louise: I look at the show and determine which ages it’s appropriate for and then look at curriculum guidelines for those grades, especially in language arts, physical education, and social studies. I then design a study guide and create linked workshops that reflect the show.

Anne Troake designed our study guide for this show. We all talked through focusing it on the themes of inclusion and adaptation. The Daly family brothers and sisters had skeletal dysplasia all had physical disabilities. Their family’s story is an incredible example of inclusion and adaptation. We focused on them in the show and study guide as the amazing individuals they were.

ArtsNL: For someone interested in how school tours take shape, can you talk a little bit about that process?

Louise: We reach out to schools two to three months in advance of the tour. We send out an email with a good, short description of the show, the workshops, emphasizing that these are offered free, thanks to the ArtsNL School Touring Program!

I look up several email addresses per school on the Department of Education website: the principal’s, the physical education teacher, some language arts and social studies teachers, and email them all. Teachers and principals are busy. Different schools have different organizational structures, so contacting several ensures the word will get to the right lead person in a given school. Close follow up is required for sure, to double check the study guide has been shared, that spaces have been organized etc.

Because of the theme of inclusion, the response to If a Place was the quickest I have seen to a school tour offer, and this is my fourth. School anti-bullying campaigns are excellent, but at times can come across as a reproach, a shaking finger saying ‘Don’t bully!’. The positive response we have had on this show is that talking about the wider topic of inclusion, as in including everyone, is more like an embrace than a shaking finger. And that is effective.

ArtsNL: And once you have a plan for your school tour, how does taking a creative production/performance work going from school to school where you may not have the same tools/resources a theatre might have? And the resources I imagine change from school to school…

Louise: When we get a response from a school, we follow up with information about required space for the show and workshops, and a mini tech rider, just like a theatrical production. We do try to bring all our equipment with us, because as you say, resources change from school to school. And, teachers are so busy! So even if a school has a video projector for example, it is hard to keep track of whether it is currently working or not. The funds from the school tour grant help us be able to rent equipment. 

Louise Moyes danding with Diana Daly on accordian

Diana Daly on accordian and Louise Moyes perform in If A Place Could Be Made (photo: Jared Reid)

ArtsNL: Can you share a little more about the Daly family and a story or two you particularly love from the presentation?

Louise: It’s interesting that the students (performing for them) have changed our own relationships to some of the stories – makes them real in different ways.

For example, telling the story of Rose (photo from show with me holding mirror), who died at home at age 45: you are aware as a performer that children are going to identify with this story on a different level than adults. That doesn’t mean we don’t include it! But, the performance becomes all the more tender for being aware of your audience. (We presented to grades 4 and up.)

From the age of 7 Rose couldn’t walk, so she had to be carried from room to room in the house. She didn’t go out. Her sister Mary bathed and dressed her. Rose made vases that she decorated by cutting out flowers from greeting cards. She needed to use her chin to help her move the scissors. And everyone loved hanging out in her room. She used a mirror to see the world, because of the layout of her room and her physical disabilities.

When we have the talk back, kids remember every single detail, it’s incredible. And they have such thoughtful questions about how she died, and why she died. And through those questions they are learning about death, which affects them too, and they’re making connections. In some of the workshops, we taught the kids Rose’s dance. And they improvised with it themselves, creating their own versions. Some told us stories of their own family members who had passed away.

Then there are the stories in the show of Joe, the joker of the family. The kids’ joy at Joe’s go-cart, which he made to help him get around to places he couldn’t get with his crutches in St. Mary’s! Everyone loves a go-cart. In the workshops, we teach Joe’s dance; they make their own version of it, improvising on the same moves, and we all get to yell our fave Joe line out together: “Give us a saaandwich!”

We have half of the students perform in a chair, as if they themselves were in a wheelchair or needed crutches, like Kim White and Joe, while the others perform on their feet. Then they reverse the roles. In this creative exercise they’re living what it means to include people of all physical abilities.

ArtsNL: Why was it important for you to incorporate Kim into your tour? How did you make that connection, and what added value does she bring to the classroom?

Louise: We met Kim in the lead up to our production last February. I’ve fundraised for, and held panels with, various organizations during my solo productions over the last 5 years. I find it to be excellent, and fun, community and audience building. Kim was the executive director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities NL at the time and she agreed to be part of our post-show discussion on inclusion and the arts. She is such a skilled speaker and advocate, and as it turns out, she has a great passion for the arts and working with youth. We formed great relationships with Kim.

So when it came to planning and applying for a school tour, it was clear we wanted Kim to be part of it. She vetted our script and study guide for appropriate and respectful language around disabilities. She helped develop our workshops.

Kim participates in the post-show discussion and co-teaches the dance and storytelling workshop. She articulates what inclusion and adaptation mean and gets kids talking about examples in the show. As she speaks; Kim and her own experiences embody the ideas in the show. The connection for the students is immediate. Kim then helps us teach Joe’s dance and Rose’s dance, how to tell stories through movement, and how their dances are exemplary of inclusion and adaptation.

Archive Daly family photo

Archival photo of the Daly family as featured in If A Place Could Be Made

ArtsNL: How have students responded to the tour? And the workshop activity? What happens to the creative results they end up with following their workshops?

Louise: The response has been great. There’s a lot of curiosity. I think children also relate closely to the stories and sub-theme of working to gain and create your own independence within community.

The second workshop is songwriting, given by Diana. She works with groups of 10 to write their own lyrics, based on a song in the show. The song covers each of the family members and the fun they had together. The kids use that as a springboard to write their own songs about themselves and, sometimes without them realizing, inclusion and community and their importance. Students perform their version of the dances and songs for each other.

ArtsNL: What lasting affect do you hope your tour has on the students? In terms of your chosen theme? In terms of professional arts practices?

Louise: In terms of the show’s themes,  we hope that the next time students encounter a situation where exclusion is taking place, they may have found some extra tools and awareness to stop it and find ways to work together to turn it around, and find inclusion.

In terms of professional arts practices, we hope that those who are interested in storytelling through songs, stories and/or dance see that there are many, multiple ways to do it. And that everyone has stories to tell. One girl at Bishop Field asked us “Where did you get the idea to combine dance and theatre?” She wanted to jump in right away!

Louise Moyes back on looking into mirror

Louise Moyes performs in If A Place Could Be Made (photo: Andrew Winter)

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the School Touring Program help you develop professionally and achieve your goals for this project?

Louise: One of the other marvelous things about school tours is that they give an opportunity to strip a show down to its bones, both in technical aspects, words, and performance. My own understanding of my shows always makes great leaps during school tours. Once on Bell Island a grade 8 student asked, “Louise what do you prefer? Doing a show for an audience of people who paid to come see your show and chose to come? Or the likes of us, where half are here because they want to be, and for the rest it’s just a chance to get out of class?!”

I replied: “That’s a really good question. And I would say – performing for you guys, because in order to draw you in, I have to work really hard. You make me really reach for the emotion and the meaning in the stories and the dances.  I can tell when you’re half interested – and when I’ve won you over. And that feels really good.”

Now that we have the ‘school tour’ version, extra value has been added to the show for touring purposes! The Daly Family Collective is lucky enough to be the Arts and Culture Centre’s Artists in Residence 2017. In February, we were given a week in the Gander ACC to hone technical side of the show. While there, 300 students from Gander, Musgrave Harbour, and Dover saw the school version, in the theatre. And because we have a school version, as well as the ‘adult’ full-length, we have a potential Atlantic tour in the works for this fall. More soon!

We as the Collective can see that being able to refine the storytelling in If a Place Can Be Made through the school tour is great preparation for the co-production with RCAT of this show happening June 8 to 18, 2017 at the LSPU Hall; they have selected it as the Mainstage Program for 2017. The show will have partnerships with Business and Arts NL and The Harris Centre (MUN) too during that run.

The School Touring Program also helps professional artists by creating more work opportunities – so far three of the schools we have toured to would like us to go back and do an ArtsSmarts project next year.

ArtsNL: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Louise: There are not enough school tours. Teachers tell us this all the time. The program is fabulous, but needs to at least get back to the funding levels it has several years ago. The impact on students and schools is tremendous - so they tell us! Seeing Newfoundland and world culture come alive, in their school, roots them in our province in very tangible ways and through workshops gives them tools to make culture come alive in dance, theatre,  music, words, art, for themselves.