St. Francis Xavier High School students present a production to raise awareness for mental health

By: Tavish King-McMaster (Grade 12 student playing Bryan)

On Wednesday, April 19th, the students of St. Francis Xavier High School will take to the stage to present Bruce Jacoby’s The Girl in The Mirror. This hard-hitting drama is about the mental health challenges adolescents face in their day to day lives. The play follows a smart, talented, young girl by the name of Susan Connors. 

Barrhaven St. Francis Xavier High School Play

When the play opens, the audience learns that she has attempted suicide and the play begins with Susan in a hospital room, lying in a coma. This is where the Speaker comes in. Similar to the ghosts in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life, the Speaker comes to help Susan understand her life and see that death is not the answer. The Speaker takes Susan back into her memories, allowing her to see them from a different vantage point, in order for her to better understand what led her to this near-fatal decision. The Speaker also brings Susan and the audience to the most important realization of the journey: hope is always present. In a world where we tweet and share constantly, we as humans need to come to realize the importance of our mental wellness. The Girl in The Mirror makes the audience confront this relevant and often stigmatized subject. They witness Susan’s realization of self-worth and self-understanding. It is a play about how we need to be honest and communicate with each other more than ever, and how we must be there for one another, especially through difficult times.

St. Francis Xavier’s Coyote Cast and Crew decided to try something completely new with The Girl in the Mirror. It differs greatly from their previous production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. This was a conscious decision. After producing a fun-loving piece like Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the group wanted to do a more serious play about an issue they were passionate about and that was relevant in today’s society. As a result, we picked The Girl in the Mirror, a play that deals with mental health, with the goal of spreading mental health awareness. The directors hoped that performing a play that so outwardly tackled this important topic would create a conversation and teach youth about the effects of mental health, not only in adolescents, but everyone.

The message of this play is so powerful because most people can find something in it to relate to. Being that the play is based in high school and put on by  high school students, most students can identify with one or multiple situations or feelings brought up by the play. Susan, the main character goes through so much over the course of the play, experiencing moments of both pain and joy. She feels alone and stressed, which many teenagers can relate to. Other characters in the play, such as Susan’s parents, her teachers, her best friend, and her boyfriend, are also relatable. Each character experiences their own struggles in the play, just as each person does in their lives.

Performing a full-length production doesn’t happen overnight. The students in grades 9-12 at St. Francis Xavier High School began rehearsals for the show last November, after a set of auditions that chose the cast. Since then, students and staff have been staying after school and working their hardest to bring this production to life, rehearsing up to 5 hours a day, five nights a week.

The play is a time consuming commitment for any student or teacher, but once it’s onstage and all the hard work put in can be shared, it’s all worth it. The memories students and teachers come out with from this experience is priceless.

“I was lucky enough to be in the play for four years in a row, and each year I find that the cast and crew open up to each other more. We all become like family. I’m very excited to be a part of a play that has such meaning behind it,” says Angela Johnson, a grade twelve student at St. Francis Xavier, who plays The Speaker, a major role.  

One of the most interesting aspects of the play is its Stage Crew. The production isn’t using your average Running Crew to change the set between scenes. Instead, the directors, inspired by Frantic Assembly’s choreography in the Broadway version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, decided to have an Ensemble that acts as both a dance-based running crew during the transitions and as set pieces during the scenes themselves.

“It looks really cool. The ensemble has been working so hard and I finally feel like everything’s coming together. I’m really excited for people to see what we’ve done and get to experience the message of hope we’re trying to portray,” says Tessa Dougan, another grade twelve student at St. Francis Xavier, who plays Susan Connors, the lead.

Barrhaven St. Francis Xavier High School Play

The show runs at 7pm from Wednesday, April 19th to Friday, April 21st at St. Francis Xavier High School (3740 Spratt Rd, Gloucester, ON). Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for the General Public. They can be purchased through Tamara Capyk at St. Francis Xavier HS or by emailing her at Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Warning: the show contains mature content relating to adolescent mental health and is therefore not recommended for young audiences. For more information, updates, photos and videos, visit We hope you enjoy the show!