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Play brings to life impact of residential schools

By Jean Ko Din
The Catholic Register

05/06/2015

TORONTO (CCN) — Highly acclaimed First Nations playwright Drew Hayden Taylor is bringing a poignant play to Toronto about a dark part of Canadian history.

God and the Indian is a one-act play with a cast of one woman and one man that brings to the forefront the abuse that occurred at Indian residential schools during the 19th and into the 20th centuries.

Renae Morriseau is the director of God and the Indian and said it is her job to “articulate the beats and the emotion of the piece.”

Being a First Nations woman herself, Morriseau said she hopes this play will open a discussion for survivors of residential schools and other Canadians to look deeper at this history.

“I am Cree and I have a history of residential schooling in my life,” she said.

“To understand the impact that that has had on almost seven generations of my people, that we are living with the results of government policy on the raising of Aboriginal children in residential schools.”

The play begins with a Cree woman named Johnny panhandling outside of a coffee shop when she encounters Anglican Bishop George King, a figure from her long-ago childhood spent in a residential school.

Johnny follows King to his office to confront him about the abuse he inflicted on her and other children at the school. King adamantly denies her accusations and Johnny expresses how she has been robbed of her identity.

Morriseau first directed the production as a two-act play that debuted at Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver in 2013. Now as a one-act play, she said the tension and emotion of the piece is much more concentrated.

“I think the idea of a play and using the language of theatre to look at aspects of Canadian history. . . . This is not just an Aboriginal issue, but a Canadian one,” said Morriseau.

Native Earth Performing Arts and Firehall are organizing a series of events, such as post-show panels, dinner-and-show packages and Q&A sessions with the writer, director and cast. Morriseau said she likes to discuss her productions with the audience because it helps her to connect with different perspectives.

“I think any dialogue with people that have just witnessed a production, you get a worldview of the play outside of its production,” she said.

“I think that people of all walks of life, whether you just immigrated to Canada or you’ve been here for many generations, that you understand that this story is very much a part of Canadian history that hasn’t been told.”

Native Earth, in partnership with Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver, brings God and the Indian to Aki Studio at 250-585 Dundas St. E. in Toronto from May 2 to 17. The play then moves back to Firehall at 280 East Cordova St. in Vancouver from May 20 to 30.

For more information and to buy tickets to the show, visit nativeearth.ca or firehallartscentre.ca.


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