Rarely presenting as neat packages, mental health issues often involve feelings and behaviours with jagged edged and blurred origins. Fragments embodies the theme that stress at home, at school and in life is challenging young people beyond their usual coping abilities, often leaving them disenfranchised and vulnerable. On the heels of the sellout debut season for Fragments, COVID-19 crashed into our collective consciousness, heightening the sense of isolation and disconnection that many in our community, including young people, were feeling. It comes as no surprise that the incidence of mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression, has risen substantially during the pandemic.
I wrote Fragments to start a conversation, to give a sense of agency to young people while reaching out to their peers, families and the community. It’s only when we speak openly about mental health issues – without fear or judgment – that we can chip away at the stigma that prevents many people from seeking help. This is especially important for young people. So much of adolescent life is spent looking inwards that it’s perhaps not surprising that mental health issues are often internalised and ignored. Swimmers put up their hands when struggling in a rip but there’s no clear, universal signal for people who need help with mental health issues. And sometimes the waters are so turbulent that those who are struggling don’t recognise themselves in each other.
In bringing Fragments to the Canberra community, and hopefully beyond, I wanted to explore the healing that may come from looking outwards – from our connectedness to others and our realisation that we are not alone. The eight monologues presented here are pieces – fragments – of the countless stories to be told, layering voice upon voice until the sound is so loud it can no longer be ignored.
Provenance of the Work
The 2019 debut season of Fragments at The Street Theatre, Canberra was supported by The ACT Government (artsACT), LJ Hooker Canberra City and the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT.
Fragments was developed with support from MPS Travel+Tours Award, Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centre, Ralph Indie Program, Australian Cultural Fund, Bundanon Trust and The Street Theatre’s First Seen Program. Dramaturgy by Shelly Higgs, Caroline Stacey, James Hartley and Gin Savage and Suzanne Ingelbrecht.
An earlier version of Fragments (monologues only), directed by James Hartley, Upper Crass Theatre Company, was performed in November 2018 at the Pioneer Theatre, Castle Hill, NSW. Selected monologues have been performed at various theatre festivals in Australia and overseas.
In 2020, Fragments attracted additional support from The ACT Government (artsACT) to revisit and reshape the work in response to COVID-19.
Maura Pierlot is an award-winning author and playwright who hails from New York but has called Canberra home for thirty years.
In 2016 Maura won the MPS Travel+Tours Award, Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation to write a dramatic work on youth mental health, which has developed into Fragments. That year she also won the SOLO Monologue Competition, Hothouse Theatre for her play, Tapping Out, which went on to receive three awards at Short+Sweet Sydney (2017).
In 2018, Maura was a Visiting Artist at Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres, where she continued to develop Fragments as part of the Ralph Indie Program. This development continued in 2019 as Artist in Residence at Bundanon Trust and Fellow at the KSP Writers Centre in the lead-up to the play’s debut professional production.
A former business owner, ethicist and editor of Australian Medicine, Maura also writes for children and young adults. In 2017 she was named winner of the CBCA Aspiring Writers Mentorship Program and Charlotte Waring Barton Award for her young adult manuscript, Freefalling (now True North).
Maura’s first picture book, The Trouble in Tune Town won the 2018 ACT Writing and Publishing Award (Children’s category) along with international accolades.
Maura is a guest reader and speaker at schools and libraries, a Role Model for Books in Homes, and a regular reviewer and interviewer for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s online magazine, Reading Time. She has a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate, each in philosophy, specialising in ethics.