Eight years ago, Sarah Hayward started to take voice lessons in Vancouver.
And she found that her coach, Marguerite Witvoet, not only had an talent to bring the best out of her students but to turn their daily lives into song.
At the time, Hayward was ferrying back and forth to Victoria to care for her ailing mother and, during one visit at the extended care, Hayward saw first hand the power of music when she began to sing to her sick parent and other folks in the home. "I could see them waking up and the memories in their eyes."
The therapeutic technique prompted Hayward to collaborate with Witvoet for her theatrical one-woman musical, called Stripes: The Mystery Circus, which will presented as part of a double bill with Veenesh Dubois in Coquitlam next week.
In Stripes, the character of Pollyhymnia is so eager to get into the circus that she portrays every act, including an escape artist and a high-wire walker.
The circus, Hayward said, is a metaphor for life. And while she goes through many zany journeys to reach her destination - mixing physical and traditional theatre with cabaret - Hayward said the play has a message: Be authentic.
"It's about using your life experience as a creative medium," she said, recalling some of the lyrics: "Stripes are what's inside your cloth/Chose a habit that you like a lot/Stripes are what's inside your cloth/Stripes be brave, bar none."
"It's about not trying to please everyone but doing what you really want to do."
Ultimately, Stripes is Hayward's way of paying tribute her family.
"If I want to do something night after night, I want it to be about love," she said. "That was my impetus for creating it, wanting to honour that life we had together."
Hayward has earned high praise for her show. Last month, she was doubled-up with Dubois at the Surrey Arts Centre - as in Coquitlam - and, over the past few years, she toured the Canadian fringe circuit and gave excepts at showcases in Berlin, Edinburgh and Nova Scotia.
Last year, Stripes appeared at the New York Fringe Festival and, this July, Hayward will be at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.