Some Assembly Theatre Company presents the original one-person play, How Star Wars Saved My Life, written and performed by Dr. Nicholas Harrison. Based on his own true story, Harrison shares his experience surviving sexual and physical abuse from priests, and how the film Star Wars was integral to his journey.
“It’s really a journey of hope,” says Harrison, “It’s got its powerful moments, both positively and negatively within the play, but it is all about balance, finding that way to cope after being abused so traumatically as a child.”
Dr. Nicholas Harrison, known to some as the “fight director guy” is an accomplished theatre practitioner, having worked as an actor, writer, director, stunt performer, and of course, as a fight director.
Harrison’s doctoral research includes a paper on “how pop culture can be used as a form of cognitive behavioural therapy for abuse survivors.” Harrison says “The story as it is now, in its very first form, was a research PhD paper.”
Through his lived experience, as well as his psychological and theatrical background, Harrison is perhaps the perfect jedi to take a story of surviving abuse to the stage.
Perhaps because of its scientific roots, How Star Wars Saved my Life will deeply consider the psychology of surviving abuse. Harrison says “Being able to tell my story is probably easier because I’ve gone through it. If I was looking at this as a script, as an actor who hadn’t experienced it, I probably wouldn’t know what to make of it.”
Harrison is able to theatricalize how the human mind copes with abuse. For example, he characterizes an action figure of R2D2, the droid from Star Wars. For Harrison, it was critical to have something that could understand him without judging him.
“The droid, for me, has become such a part of my life. When I was a kid, it was something I kept hanging onto whenever I was nervous or scared and it made me feel comfortable, because as a child, I could talk to this thing,” he says.
Harrison wants Star Wars Saved My Life to “break down the barriers of silence that are around abuse victims and abuse survivors and abusers, and to be able to allow for a more open and honest communication about abuse and about how abuse happens.”
While, his own experience was with the church, Harrison emphasizes that the play is not an attack on the church. He hopes the play will get people thinking about all systems that enable child abuse and to be careful “anytime there’s an adult in a power position where children look up to.”
For survivors of abuse in the audience, Harrison hopes that How Star Wars Saved My Life will give them a voice. He says “hopefully it will give them a chance to find the courage, to know that it is okay to speak out.” Most importantly, Harrison wants his play to demonstrate that “if you’re an abuse survivor, you are not at fault for what happened.”
Finally, Harrison would like to say to all survivors that “there is strength to your story. Getting help, speaking out is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”
How Star Wars Saved My Life opens December 6th and runs until the 10th at Performance Works on Granville Island.
Tickets and more information can be found here.