Borderline Me kicks off Mental Health Awareness Month in Hamilton


Veronica Appia


Zee is back and she’s bringing hope.

Robin (Zee) Zilberg is remounting her autobiographical fringe playBorderline Me at the Staircase Theatre on Oct. 1 – a powerful start to Mental Health Awareness Month.

The play, about Zee’s experience with abuse, human trafficking and her methods of dealing with her past, has touched more than just the lives of the Hamilton Fringe audience this past summer.

“One of the things that has been shifted is the educational component,” Zee says.

Borderline Me is currently being used as a learning tool for psychiatric residents at St. Joe’s Hospital in Hamilton. Zee states that performing at St. Joe’s is a phenomenal experience and that she hopes to provide progressive methods of learning, different from what hospitals normally have in place. Zee explains: “[It’s about] stepping away from the book. There is a human component. I think that people have the tendency of putting certain expectations on people in the mental health field. As patients and as human beings we tend to not give them much leeway in their humanness.”

Zee says that it was her social worker Ronnie who made the biggest impact on her in terms of healing, in large part, because she was capable of showing a more human side. “What happens with trauma victims is that they do seem to have a heightened sensitivity to a wide variety of things,” Zee explains. “Just because you are a psychiatrist or a doctor, it does not mean you are trustworthy.”

Zee was provoked to create Borderline Me after viewing Shelley Marshall’sHold Mommy’s Cigarette, an autobiographical play about suicide prevention. Zee states that this show sparked something in her and inspired her desire to tell her own story through an unfamiliar medium — theatre. 

Borderline Me was born out of a ten-week program with SoulO Theatre in Toronto, under the direction of Tracey Erin Smith. Zee explains that at the end of the course she “got to do a ten minute performance, in which [she] took a deep breath and blurted out [her] life and breathed at the end of it.” After that performance she was asked to the Fringe.

Zee says that it has taken a lot of courage to put herself out there, but though it has been a therapeutic experience for her, she does not suggest it as a form of therapy for everyone. “You have to be relatively grounded and you have to have the right tools in place, because there is an aftermath to everything,” Zee explains. “I’ve been stuck behind my nerves for a long time. I guess being at the age that I’m at, there’s part of me that says ‘it’s now or never.’ ”

Zee says she wishes to expand the show over the winter to include her experience doing the first Fringe show.  “I want the show to be balanced,” she says. “I want it to be a story of hope.”