The Picture of Calgary: "LOCAL"


“Local:  characterized by or relating to position in space.”

“Locale: the place where something happens, the place where a story happens." 


I’ve been thinking about the words “local” and “locale” lately because our host for The Picture of Happiness shows in Calgary was Mariette Sluyter, actor and community activist for responsible leadership not only in her own city but as a TED-Talks speaker across Canada.


In addition to Brad’s family, and Brad's and Rae’s old friends from school days in Calgary, at each of our four shows we found ourselves surrounded by the people whom Mariette and her husband - the wise and wonderful Brian Padlewski - have attracted to their lives. The Padlewski-Sluyter home is a place “where stories happen".

 So what makes this couple - and their "locale", that is, the place they call “home” - so magical?


From my spot on the piano bench, listening to Brad tell his extraordinary story of family and secrets, I could see and hear actors, directors, UofC theatre department faculty and Leadership Calgary contacts laughing, gasping, encouraging, whispering “can you pass me that box of Kleenex” … all of them there because Mariette and Brian had said, “Come, this story is important”. Most of the people in the room were there based solely on a Sluyter/Padlewski endorsement; they knew if they had received the invitation for The Picture of Happiness (essentially "pop-up theatre") from Mariette and Brian, that the evening would challenge and entertain them. 


Grant Reddick, Rae Ellen Bodie and Patricia Benedict


From my spot on the back deck, watching Brian prepare a Hutterite-bred brisket for a 16-hour slow cook on the grill (a.k.a. "The Avocado of Awesomeness”), I could hear the wind in the few leaves that were still clinging to the trees. The leaves of an aspen tree make a very specific sound, it’s a different “aural landscape” from that of my oak-treed backyard in Toronto. When I remarked on the rustling of the leaves, Brian told me that the Latin name for the aspens that grow in Calgary is ‘Populus tremuloides’, literally ‘Trembling Aspen’.


Brian Padlewski prepares the barbecue, a.k.a. "The Avacado of Awesomeness", for a 16 hour slow-cooked, organic brisket grill.


From my spot on a stool at the island in the kitchen, watching while Mariette pulled home-canned beets and applesauce from her well-stocked pantry, I learned about the efforts and rewards in growing and sourcing produce and meat locally from growers who have integrity. It’s not enough just to buy the goods, it’s important to know "the how" and "the why" of a locavore lifestyle. Mariette knows the farmers at the markets we visited; she knows how they have raised their beef, where they have grown the apples and potatoes, where the restaurants that claim to be "locavores" and "organic" have sourced their ingredients.


Rae Ellen Bodie, Patti, Mariette Sluyter, Diane Wallis (Brad's mum), and Brad, at "Farm Restaurant"

From my spot on the couch espresso in hand in the morning, Shiraz in hand after our shows – I learned about Mariette’s work, locally with Leadership Calgary, and nationally with Michaelle Jean's Power of the Arts National Forum.  The concept of “advancing social change” can be esoteric, daunting - scary even - but Mariette is passionate, not just in the theatre environment but also in her own city, and in our nation.

As Calgarians, Edmontonians, Winnipeggers, Torontonians, we have geographically specific “locales”. 

But as humans who share this planet, we have a larger “position in space”. 

I think Mariette says it best:

 “After having many people in my home, some old friends, some new friends, I am reminded of the idea that we are all braver because of each other. I may only be brave in some areas, others have strengths that I could never fathom and that is what is important about us each stepping up when called. BUT we can only step up if we prepare ourselves to be brave every day. My bravery often stems from knowing there is no other option in order for us to collectively move forward.

We are stronger together.”

So, there you have it. No magic necessary: Mariette and Brian’s “locale" is a place where strong stories happen. I was honoured to share their place, their space, and their time with them.


Mariette and me - and our Smarty Girl glasses. 

“Locale: the place where something happens, the place where a story happens."

Photo and photo-editing by Mariette Sluyter.