Vancouver based Theatre for Living is bringing their interactive play called šxwʔamət (home) to the Port Hardy Civic Centre.
The title of the play šxwʔamət means home in Hǝnqǝminǝm, a Coast Salish dialect, and it weaves together stories based on real-life issues of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
“What this play does is put these hard questions on to the stage and asks audiences how we can make reconciliation real and meaningful,” said Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) Outreach Coordinator David Ng.
The interactive forum theatre process begins with the play performed once all the way through so that the audience can see the situation presented. The story concludes when it builds to a crisis and stops, offering no solutions.
The play is then run again, with audience members able to “freeze” the action at any point where they see a character engaged in a struggle and offer an idea to solve the problem.
“It’s a malleable way to bring this dialogue of reconciliation to communities,” said Ng, adding “It’s a model of theatre that really allows for it to shift according to the communities’ needs.”
šxwʔamət (home) is created and performed by a mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous cast and production team.
“The play creation process is very grassroots so everyone involved in the production has lived experiences with the issues,” said Ng, adding that “This project has actually grown out of several other projects – it grew out of a play called ‘I have to tell my story’ which was a play about residential school survivors.”
Ng said that in šxwʔamət (home) they wanted to ask the question of “what does reconciliation actually look and feel like on the ground?” and “how do we put that into action”.
It is directed by David Diamond and associate director Renae Morriseau and was first performed in Metro Vancouver in March of 2017 where it was highly acclaimed.
The play’s main characters include Lucas, an 18 year-old-Cree adoptee, Siya, a 22-year-old emerging leader in the Indigenous rights community, and her friend Chase, the daughter of Filipino immigrants.
“Theatre is really a powerful way to engage with these issues,” said Ng, adding “It really gives the audience the opportunity to change the story and that can be a metaphor for reconciliation in real life.”
Ng said that when watching the play “Your heart breaks for these characters” and “The idea is that the audience members are itching to get out of their seats to stop the bad decision they think has been made.”
šxwʔamət (home) is now currently touring BC and Alberta and will visit 21 communities before returning to Vancouver for its final nine performances.
“In almost all communities we knit together Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizers we hope we have a really diverse audience wherever we go,” said Ng, adding that even though the play deals with difficult themes “It is accessible for people of all ages, all backgrounds, and all walks of life”.
Ng said that although the play “has grown contextually in Vancouver these are Canadian questions and we are excited to be giving this platform of dialogue through theatre to different communities.”
šxwʔamət (home) will be performed at the Port Hardy Civic Centre on Friday, Jan. 26 at 7:00 PM.
Admission is free, but donations will be accepted at the door and those interested in attending can register online at theatreforliving.com or through the Mount Waddington Health Network by calling 250-956-4461 extension 66252.
About the director:
David Diamond is a 1975 BFA Theatre graduate of the University of Alberta. He was a founding member of Vancouver’s Headlines Theatre (1981) and has been Artistic Director since 1984.
In 2013 the theatre company took on a “new” name and started calling itself Theatre for Living.
David has directed over 550 community-specific projects on issues such as racism, civic engagement, violence, addiction, street youth, intergenerational conflict, and homelessness.
The Associate Director is Renae Morriseau* (Cree and Saulteaux), originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She works across Canada and the US in theatre, film, television, and music.