My name is Len Whalen. Since my retirement from a 30-year career in education as a Special Education Resource Teacher, Guidance Counsellor, and classroom teacher at all grade levels I have been working as an advocate for families struggling with the challenges living with FASD. My search for resources introduced me to the FASD Action Network, Kingston, Dr. James Reynolds (NeuroDevNet – now Kids Brain Health), FASD One, and countless parents, kids, and young adults whose stories tell a complex tale. I soon realized that the numbers: data, research projects, formal assessments, etc. revealed a very small segment of the whole story of living with FASD. The real story involved the human side of FASD. As I met families and began to hear and understand their struggles, I felt that it was critical for lived experience be a major element of the complete picture. Drawing on my background in theatre, armed with a compelling narrative, and my own personal experience living with FASD I created the “historical fiction” which became, Jacob’s Story. The play is a collection of stories based on my own life and the lives of the families I met, arranged in a storyline of a boy with FASD struggling with the challenges navigating the education system, family and children’s services, health care system, youth justice, and even his own family. The production includes a brilliant, original score and songs written and performed by another individual with a personal connection to a family member living with FASD.
(Listen to Victim of the Eyes here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdbFfC_rogI)
The show just scratches the surface of the issues faced by individuals living with FASD but attempts to elicit an emotional connection to the people whose lives are impacted by FASD.
The show is designed in two segments: the performance and the facilitated discussion immediately afterwards which invites the audience members to share their own experiences and pose questions raised during the show.
It should be noted that Jacob’s Story has been a labour of love. I need to acknowledge the contribution of all the families who have so bravely and generously agreed to share their stories. I also wish to recognize the support of Dr. James Reynolds, Kids Brain Health Network/NeuroDevNet. Finally, to the generosity of an incredible cast and production team who donated countless hours to make Jacob’s Story a reality.
If you or your organization or agency would like to inquire about showing Jacob’s Story at a meeting or event, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A sample of feedback from audiences:
“The whole play from beginning to end validates the journey of the family as a unit, the so misunderstood kids living the disorder the schools lack of understanding and resistance to being educated and of course the final resting place, jail, where I know first-hand a majority of alcohol affected individuals end up. The ending was so bang on. There are no words to describe just how I felt but pure emotion. This play visually teaches everyone, and this is how an alcohol affect individual learns best, visually.”
“I enjoyed the play very much. The stories afterwards were gripping and despite all our personal tragedies, we are indeed fortunate when compared to those affected by this terrible disorder.”
“…just wanted to let you know we thought the show last night was amazing. The discussion afterwards was really great too. I’m so thankful to have been given the chance to see the show. Your passion and knowledge will bring attention and hopefully awareness to this awful disorder that has affected yours and so many others’ lives. I know what you are doing is going to help so many and bring about change and help for these kids and their families.”
“I just wanted to say how impressed we were last night with your play and the whole evening. It was poignant, heartfelt, thought provoking and should definitely be shown to as many groups as possible. From teachers to medical personnel to prison guards and the general public, everyone could learn from it.”
“…it was such a privilege to be part of the audience for Jacob’s Story …a powerful and inspiring piece. Congratulations!”
“I cried through the entire production. The actors were amazing, and I loved Sam’s music and Emma’s singing. The slides added wonderful thought-provoking commentary. But the discussion afterwards was just as moving, and clearly very therapeutic for many people there. I then spent the entire drive home thinking about how educational and moving that was, and what a great example it is of how to disseminate knowledge.”
“I just wanted to let u know that I haven’t stopped thinking about the show all day I was very inspired by both the show and the discussion after the show Thank you. It was very touching and very educational.”
“This is pretty incredible – in the past we’ve heard about children being born with FASD – however I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard anything about the long-term impact… Thank you for shedding light on this! And in such a creative way – also having the open forum after the play enables a dialogue – that’s not just limited to individuals commenting amongst themselves – pretty awesome ! Congrats !”