Applied Theatre instructor Lauren Jerke (photo: Nik West, UVic Photo Services)

Imminent Masters graduate and Applied Theatre instructor Lauren Jerke was profiled in UVic’s latest knowlEDGE research feature, “Clearing the Air,” which ran in the Times Colonist on October 30. Both her work with VIHA’s smoking cessation and reduction group at Victoria’s Eric Martin Pavilion, and her penning of an original play, Mixed Messages (along with members of that group), were the subject of the piece.

“Applied theatre is the use of theatre for extra-theatrical purposes, like community-building, social change and education—and it almost always does all three at the same time,” Jerke explains in the article.

Mixed Messages focuses on how social culture and direct targeting by the smoking industry has resulted in rampant tobacco addictions among people living with mental illness. “Some doctors have been convinced by the tobacco industry that allowing people with a mental illness to smoke is ‘self-medication’ and that it eases their symptoms,” says Jerke. “The tobacco companies went as far as sending complimentary cartons of cigarettes to psychiatric institutions.”

(Quirky side-note: the guy smoking in the background of the accompanying photo is Fine Arts communications honcho and author of this blog, John Threlfall, who had to puff his way through a cigarette for the first time in over 25 years. Ick!)