Therapy through performance

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Actor Robin Hebb returns home to Saint John to make her solo performance debut with Him & Alice – An Evening of Stories (and wine) with Robin Hebb.

Matt Carter

This week, Toronto-based performer Robin Hebb will be back in her hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick to premiere her debut solo show Him & Alice – An Evening of Stories (and wine) with Robin Hebb on Monday December 17 at the InterAction School of Performing Arts.

Doing this show is a massive first me,” said Hebb, who describes herself as an actor by trade, writer by accident, a comedian for the hell of it, and a Saint Johner for life. 

A graduate of Dalhousie University’s classical acting program, Hebb has been acting professionally for the past five years. About a year ago she discovered standup comedy and has since been working to combine her stage training with her love for laughter and writing.

“Through telling jokes I became comfortable speaking in front of a crowd in my own voice, saying what was on my mind,” said Hebb.  “The more I wrote the more I felt like I had something to say.”

Her website robin-hebb.com is home to several essays and musings going back over the past year as well as the podcast Badvice which she co-hosts with longtime friend Gorjan Veletic.

Her upcoming performance is based largely on her recent essay writing, specifically a series that explores one of the darkest and most emotionally distraught times in her life.

“Writing it all down and thinking through each beat and each moment of struggle I went through was an amazing way to gain hindsight and clarity,” said Hebb.  “A lot of the things I’ve written about I didn’t fully understand until after I read back what I wrote. The more I wrote the further removed I felt from it- it was like taking a weight off my own shoulders and giving myself permission to breathe.”

Hebb says the move to bring these stories to the stage was an obvious one, explaining how it was really only a matter to time before she started to look at how to retool her words into a form and structure she could put before an audience.

“Having to adapt these stories in order for them to work and resonate in this medium has removed me even further from the events,” she said. “Now I’m looking at the essays as a body of work and not my actual life, which allows me to be much less precious about them. They’ve become separate from my real life experiences and I feel no shame or embarrassment when discussing the more sensitive subject matter.”

Robin Hebb

This pairing of artistic freedom and self-therapy – her work deals largely with a breakup – has been a liberating experience for Hebb and one she hopes will resonate with audiences who may be struggling to overcome a few emotional hurdles of their own.

“My intention with the writing is to be as honest as possible about how I feel,” she said. “My hope in doing so is that I make the audience feel less alone in whatever it is they’re going through. Although the events that took place are specific to me, how I felt when I experienced them, I believe, is universal. My dream is to have someone read it and say, ‘Thank God she wrote that- I’m not the only one who’s felt/ said/ done that before’. 

“I have been absolutely blown away by how the essays are being received and how many people are reading them and reaching out to me,” said Hebb. “It’s shown me that there is a space and a need for honest and gritty (and often funny) depictions of real life – those seemingly insignificant moments that end up defining who we become.”

Him & Alice: An Evening of Stories (and wine) with Robin Hebb | December 17 | InterAction School of Performing Arts | Saint John, NB | Doors at 7. Show at 7:30 p.m. | $15 in advance – $20 at the door | View Event

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