Truth stranger than fiction in Asylum in Theatreworks

Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Award-winning playwright, Kymme Patrick, has done her research, and her upcoming play Asylum is the result.

With artistic licence and writing flair, Patrick has woven fact and fiction into a powerful story of struggle and perseverence.

For three nights only, April 20, 21 and 22, Theatreworks presents Asylum at its new rehearsal performance space at 2683 Moray Ave. — off 27th Street, behind the Courtenay bus station.

The time is 1915, and Dr. Jenny Trout, the first woman in Canada to become a medical doctor, finds a confused young patient wandering the fields as the asylum is burning. With the help of Elizabeth Cochrane (who wrote under the pseudonym Nellie Bly) and Emily Murphy (Canada’s first female magistrate who rallied to have women recognized as persons under the law), Dr. Trout fights to uncover the horrors of the mental institution.

The truth is that these women in real life never met and actually never lived at the same time. Patrick uses these strong-willed characters to drive her story forward and engage audiences in the historical fiction. The setting for Asylum is real though. The inmates’ struggles are not imagined.

The Brandon Reformatory for Boys was built in the late-1800s to house one boy, Billy Mulligan, who stole some mail. He was overseen by a staff of six, and they were the sole occupants for five years. Eventually, the austere brick building outside of Brandon, Manitoba became the Brandon Asylum for the Insane, housing 700 ‘mentally impaired’ patients.

As across Canada we celebrate 150 years, Theatreworks contributes to our understanding of Canadian history, and the people we should remember and honour. The story may be fiction, but the sentiments of fighting for equality and recognition are still valid today.

Patrick guides and mentors local youth, giving them opportunities to express themselves through performances and skill development. Many of her students have gone on to professional careers in the arts. Theatre BC has recognized Theatreworks as a format that other clubs should follow.

Come to Theatreworks’ new rehearsal/performance space and support local theatre. Tickets for Asylum are a recommended $20 donation towards venue renovations, and available at Laughing Oyster and by contacting Patrick at

Comox Valley Record