When bad neighbours rule the roost

Melody A. Johnson’s one-woman play is based on a true story


 

If you have bad neighbours’ stories, Melody A. Johnson can top them.

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In 2010, the Toronto actor was working at home and raising her young son when she spun a writing project into a play based on her terrible neighbours.

“They were taking over our world,” she said.

For months, they had been badgering Johnson, calling her names and gossiping behind her back.

But their conflict came to a head when she applied for a criminal record check to volunteer at her son’s school.

That’s when she found out they had reported her to the Toronto Police for trespassing and for mischief to a vehicle.

Their unsubstantiated allegations were right there in black and white and preventing her from handing out pizza to the elementary students.

Fortunately, after firing off a letter of suppression to the police department, Johnson was able to clear her name.

Although Ontario reformed its background check rules last November — stopping minor accusations from showing up on public documents — Johnson said her story rings true for many Canadians.

“It applies to all of us. At the time, anybody could say anything and, there it was on your record… People’s job ambitions were being crushed.”

Since last spring, Johnson has told her tale through her one-woman comedy/drama Person of Interest across the country and “it’s had a great response because of a lot of us have had problems with our neighbours — even sometimes when we’re acres apart,” she said. “It’s a story that a lot of us commiserate with.”

At performances, Johnson asks her audience to fill out postcards to share their woeful neighbourly complaints. She reads them out — anonymously — during Q&As.

Next week, Johnson plans to do the same when she’s at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, where she has six shows starting Tuesday night; a talk-back is scheduled for Nov. 14 following her performance.

Johnson, who still lives in the same Little Poland community and is “unsure” if her difficult neighbours know about her play, asks Coquitlam ticket holders to “come armed and bring your stories. Get ready to laugh and share.”

Person of Interest runs Nov. 12 to 16 at Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam). For tickets, call the box office at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca

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