Community partnership takes centre stage

By Jennifer Parrage, BA'93

The stage is set and the curtain rises. The first of three performances is greeted with cheers from a packed house. 

It’s the beginning of the end of hours of planning, weeks of coordination and months of practise by nearly all of the School’s Doctor of Medicine students. And before the last song is sung, hundreds of community members will have been entertained and another $20,000 or more will be raised in support of London’s Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC). 

This community musical theatre celebration is known as Tachycardia. A School tradition for more than 63 years, Tachy, as it more affectionately known, has been partnering with the RHAC for the past six years while raising more than $120,000 in total for the agency. 

The Open Closet program, one of many RHAC services, benefits from the funds raised through Tachycardia. A weekly support group for LGBTQ2+ youth, Open Closet addresses topics such as coming out, gender identity and sexual health, and provides youth an opportunity to engage in the community, and leadership activities and aims to create a safe and supportive space. 

Alice Yi, senior producer for Tachycardia 2019, says that there is something special about being involved with Tachycardia.  

“It serves a dual purpose of providing a creative outlet and entertainment for the medical school community, and at the same time raising money and giving back to an important organization in London,” she said. 

Brian Lester, executive director of RHAC says that the organization is truly grateful that the students continue to select them as the primary recipient of funds raised through the annual event. 

“Not only has this helped us to make a positive impact on people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS, we also believe this ongoing commitment is a clear demonstration that Schulich Medicine & Dentistry looks for ways to positively impact the lives of our most marginalized citizens,” he said. 

Planning for Tachy gets underway months before performance weekend. It begins with a small group of Merrymakers in each of the classes, who engage their peers to become involved and who are responsible for the class production. Together with scriptwriters, set designers and producers, the individual class productions are created and then the rehearsals begin with the casts. 

Jordan Ho, who joins Yi on the producing team this year as a junior producer, was one of the Merrymakers for his Class of 2021, last year. 

“I love musicals and I love composition, and I really appreciate the opportunity to do something that is not medically focused,” Ho said. 

Third-year medical student Peiran Sun rounds out the producing team this year. He became involved with Tachy as a cast member and scriptwriter. For him, there is something magical about being part of a project, which begins as fragmented and rough and seeing it come together into one cohesive show. 

The producers and all members of the cast are as enthusiastic about their partnership with the RHAC as they are about their productions and the overall show. 

“As medical students we are privileged to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Yi said. “We have forged a strong relationship with RHAC that we are proud to carry on. We believe in their mission to enhance the lives of those living or affected by HIV/AIDS.” 

RHAC has a strong presence at each of the shows as they bring guests to enjoy the performances. The agency’s staff also serve as volunteers and ushers, and are available during the each of the shows to provide information about their mission and services. 

“We rely on their deep involvement in the show,” said Ho. “We would definitely have difficulty hosting the production without them.” 

Yi admits to experiencing a mix of feelings when the final curtain falls after the last performance of the year for Tachycardia. There are so many feelings swirling around you, she says, from pride to gratitude. 

The entire cast also feels a great sense of accomplishment, especially once they have tallied their tickets sales and other contributions and they find out what their total donation will be to RHAC. 

“Being able to write that cheque and telling RHAC the good news, knowing that we are making a difference, we could not be more proud,” Yi said. 

Tachycardia 2019 will be held from April 5-6 at Montcalm Secondary School. Watch for tickets sales in early 2019. Proceeds will once again support the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.