Still Listening…Let’s Talk!

Steinbach Neighbours for Community invites you to an informal evening of conversation on February 9, 2017, 7 p.m. at the Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre, 302 Second St.

We continue to follow up on the interest generated by Still Listening, aware that safe and meaningful conversation is a goal highly appreciated in our community. We hope that the relaxed atmosphere and the promise of wholesome dialogue will encourage you to join us. There will be snacks 🙂

Steinbach Neighbours will soon be launching a Parents of LGBTTQI* network group. Stay tuned for details about this exciting new chapter!

Still Listening: Feedback

It has been one month since Still Listening: Voices Among Us, and Steinbach Neighbours for Community would like to share the positive feedback that has flooded our inboxes and that has been the subject of conversations in our community. We continue to be grateful for the opportunity to gather and offer the stories that were told, and to play a part in calling our community to be better for everyone. Thank you for listening, for hearing and for answering that call.

And stay tuned for our community conversation follow-up evening in February!

Here are excerpts from the many emails received:

“The group did a fantastic job of “telling it like it is”. The stories portrayed were heart wrenching. I learned a lot about what people go through…their struggles, their loneliness, their feelings of rejection.”

“The method used to bring together real stories told in someone’s own words, offered up in a way that was respectful and safe for the storytellers, was powerful. The music added heart space and ways to sit with and absorb the text. What a gift to the community.”

“What a beautiful, moving, informative and hopeful production! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience hanging onto every word as much as they were tonight.”

“You could have heard a pin drop!”

“The dialogues, the music, all of it was powerful and so very moving. Everybody around me was crying so I don’t think anyone really noticed my sniffing. I cried even harder at one point when I noticed a gentleman ahead of me, close to my Dad’s age, wiping tears away.”

“On our walk home we spoke of how our grandchildren will never have to experience the pain from either parent or grandparent judging and denying their sexuality. The ripples in the pond are getting bigger and I believe these conversations will take on a different tone in our community.”

“I was moved to tears at Friday’s performance. Afterwards I went out for coffee with my dear friend who was mentioned by “Mr. Sawatzky”, as the parent of a gay son. He was truly moved by the evening and was so pleased that people in Southern Manitoba were having serious conversations about something that he and his family have been immersed in for decades”.

“I never would have dreamed that a play such as that one would have been put on in the SRSS theatre, or in Steinbach at all. I felt like the only gay person in the entire world when I was in high school and junior high. If I still lived in Steinbach, I know for a fact now that I would not feel alone.”

“I wish every Steinbach pastor would have seen that performance.”

“Thank you for the vision of finding ways to create another context for us to be neighbours for community. I experienced this evening as having the strength of circle upon circle, a wisdom that listens with humility, and the creative courage to show us what matters.”

Still Listening
Val Hiebert, centre, directs cast members in rehearsal of Still Listening:Voices Among Us. (Photo by Grant Burr, The Carillon)
Still Listening: Voices Among Us
Left to right: Character actors Larry Hiebert, Alexandra Ross and Dennis Hiebert in conversation with the audience after the show. (Photo by Grant Burr, The Carillon)
Still Listening: Voices Among Us
Character actors Reece Savard, Emma Martens, Gary Snider, Ryan Krahn in conversation with the audience after the show while director Val Hiebert looks on. (Photo by Grant Burr, The Carillon)

“A Grandmother’s Heart” by MaryLou Driedger

I saw Still Listening….Voices Among Us on Friday night at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School theatre. Using music directed by Millie Hildebrand  and a script written by Val Hiebert, a stage full of performers told the stories of people who grew up as members of the LGBTQ* community in the Steinbach area. The drama was based on interviews with dozens of people. Most of the words the actors spoke were taken verbatim from the interview transcripts. The evening’s performance was moving and thought-provoking and all the actors did a good job, but it was Evelyn Friesen playing the role of the grandmother Margaret who especially touched my heart and I’m sure those of many others in the audience.

In the drama Margaret’s grandson Alex tells her he is gay and she reacts in an accepting way. While others find it hard to come to terms with Alex’s sexual orientation his grandmother’s reaction is one of love. Later when the father of another girl in the play refuses to acknowledge or accept his lesbian daughter it is Grandmother Margaret who goes over to offer her a hug.

listening-voicesEvelyn, the woman who played the role of Margaret, is a member of the Steinbach church I attended for most of my life. I know that Evelyn is indeed a person of character and caring and perhaps that made her portrayal of the grandmother all the more meaningful for me.

Grandmother Margaret in the play reminded me of an older woman I was chatting with in my Winnipeg church a few Sundays ago.  She proudly pulled out pictures of her grandson’s wedding to show me.  She told me “what nice boys” both her grandson and his new partner were. The happy grandmother especially liked the photo of the two grooms smiling broadly with the beautiful quilt she had made them for a wedding present wrapped around their shoulders.

Yes times are changing. Communities are becoming more open to their LGBTQ* neighbors.  And grandmothers may well be taking a leadership role when it comes to demonstrating an accepting and loving attitude.

MaryLou Driedger works as a facilitator for school programs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and as a student supervisor for the education department at the University of Winnipeg. She has been a weekly columnist for The Carillon, a regional Manitoba newspaper since 1985, and has written curriculums, script, lyrics, and countless articles for travel, education, historical and religious publications. Her blog “What Next” can be found at