On September 15, 2014, renowned Canadian playwright David Young hosted a special presentation of his play Glenn at the Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto, in support of Dignitas International. Prior to the performance, 100 supporters were treated to an exclusive cocktail reception where notable guests including Alan Rickman, Albert Schultz, Leslie Feist, Adrienne Clarkson and Dignitas International Co-Founder Dr. James Orbinski were in attendance. The evening was nothing short of magical.
David, who has been a longstanding supporter of Dignitas’s work and recently joined the Board of Directors, was inspired to use his play to introduce new people to the organization in a meaningful way. Before introducing, David Young addressed his event attendees, sharing how he first got involved with Dignitas and the endurance of his commitment over the past decade. “Fact is, a lot of the time we don’t have a clue what’s going on – we make our plans and then life happens and years later we see it all clearly in the rear view mirror. By way of example, in 2001, I was hired to write a dramatic CBC mini-series about doctors doing emergency medical relief work in a war zone. I obviously needed some first-hand experience so I contacted Dr. Michael Schull, who was then the President of the Canadian chapter of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF),” said David.
As a result, Dr. Schull arranged for David to make a couple of research trips where he met countless people on the ground, including the local warlord. Coincidentally, he also met Dignitas’s current President and CEO Marilyn McHarg, who was heading up the mission for MSF Holland at the time. Sadly, after two years of developing the project, funding for the co-production fell through and the mini-series was cancelled. A few years later, Dr. Schull asked David and his brother Michael Young for a meeting. Dr. Schull wanted their help with a new organization called Dignitas International that he and his colleagues were launching.
“That day, in my kitchen, they told us a heart-stopping story. AIDS was destroying one of the poorest countries in the world. Malawi’s rudimentary health care system was on the verge of collapse. There was no delivery system for life-saving medicines and helpless people were being left to die on the roadside. Michael and I felt the power of the story, we got involved and have been fundraising for this small local NGO ever since,” shared David.
Before introducing Dr. James Orbinski to speak about the Dignitas’s impact over the past 10 years and the hope for the future, David called on event guests to consider becoming monthly donors as away of creating sustainable impact in global health. David also pointed to the commitment of other celebrity supporters like Leslie Feist, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Sting and Alan Rickman.
“It’s very simple. You support this small, nimble, deeply focused local organization that is delivering frontline care and conducting research that impacts global health policy. This organization comes from our town. It belongs to us. Trust me. Join this family and you will be changed, “ appealed David.
After the reception, guests were quickly seated for a performance of Glenn, a moving examination of the music and mythology of Canadian pianist and icon Glenn Gould. The play features four different actors, who share the stage and portray aspects of Glenn Gould’s character: the Prodigy, the Perfectionist, the Performer and Puritan. The play, which runs until October 4th, is sold out and has been profiled in the media, including in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. David’s other plays include Fire (co-written with Paul Ledoux), which won Dora, Chalmers and Toronto Drama Bench Awards, Inexpressible Island, Clout, and No Great Mischief, an adaptation of Alistair MacLeod’s award-winning novel. More than $50,000 was raised Dignitas’s lifesaving medical and research programs at the Glenn event. Special thanks goes to CIBC for being an event sponsor and to Soulpepper Theatre for hosting the fundraiser.
If you would like to respond to David’s appeal by making a one-time or monthly donation, please click here.