Telling her story
It was in the spring of 2000 and Meghan Gardiner was in her junior year of university when she woke up beside a total stranger one morning.
“I remember nothing. Still to this day I remember nothing,” Gardiner said. “I don’t have a clue as to what happened.
The night before Gardiner attended a house party, where she remembered having only one drink before passing out.
“I thought I must’ve somehow drank a lot of alcohol, but that turned out not to be the case,” Gardiner recalled about the morning she woke up next to a stranger.
Gardiner, who was studying arts at the University of British Columbia, suspected that something serious had happened to her the night before and went to a hospital, where she discovered that her drink was spiked with gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB).
“It was a horrific experience as you can imagine … I didn’t really know a lot at that time about these drugs. I just thought it was my fault and pretended that it hadn’t happened,” Gardiner said.
GHB is often called liquid ecstasy because of its euphoric or relaxed effect on users, which can occur within 10 to 20 minutes after ingestion. The drug comes in a variety of forms such as a colourless, tasteless and odourless liquid that can easily be slipped into drinks.
When Gardiner returned to UBC the following year she was tasked with creating a one-person play. At first, Gardiner struggled to come up with an idea for the play but after heeding some advice from her professor, she began to write down her emotions from that fateful spring morning.
“All the sudden I had something to write about … I had a lot to say. I was fueled by a lot of emotion,” Gardiner said.
That sudden spark from her professor’s advice mixed with the fuel of her emotions eventually flamed into a dark comedy play called Dissolve, which has been burning brightly now for more than 10-years.
“I had about a 10-minute version by the time I graduated and then two years later I had written a full-length version, which is the show that is now touring,” Gardiner said.
The one-woman, 16-character play stars Emmelia Gordon and deals with the issues surrounding drug-facilitated sexual assault in an informative, humorous and entertaining fashion. Dissolve will be at Malaspina Theatre at Vancouver Island University on Thursday (Feb. 13).
“The show is entertaining. It is a piece of theatre and in fact I would even go as far as saying that is a dark comedy … this isn’t a one-woman sob story on sexual assault,” Gardiner said. “This is a show about real people, real humans in real situations and every character could have stepped in but they didn’t and it’s their actions that are portrayed."
Since 2003, Dissolve has appeared in a handful of cities across North America including New York City and received rave reviews from reviewers across the continent.
“I never in a million years thought that I would have a show running for 11 years,” Gardiner said. “It doesn’t look like it’s slowing any time soon. The issue is such a problem that I think I’ll be in business for a while.”
One of the main messages of Dissolve is to educate people about the proper definition of consent.
“If you are under the influence of anything … if you voluntarily take drugs or alcohol then you are unable to give consent and that is as good as a no,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner’s play has also generated positive responses from various police departments, sex crimes units along with a handful of women’s organizations. After the performance an open forum is held to discuss the issues of sexual assault and rape.
“I had no idea that this play was going to break so much ground. I believe I am the first person to ever openly talk about, specifically drug facilitated sexual assault, in an artistic way,” Gardiner said. “I think that’s why I had more work than I could handle right off the top because the issue was such a problem and nobody had a resource. Safety presentations, lectures can be effective but not as effective as theatre.”
For the first two years that Dissolve ran, Gardiner hid her connection to issue of sexual assault. Gardiner said she often told people that the play was based on a friend’s experience instead of her own.
“I want to be known as an artist and as a writer and an actor. I don’t want to be known as a victim of this but I guess it’s more important that I am a survivor of this and that message is important to get across to anybody, that you can survive this and you can thrive and it doesn’t have to define you. It is just something that happened to you that isn’t your fault,” Gardiner said.
Tickets for Dissolve are $10 for students and $15 adults and can be purchased at www.havensociety.com