On Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. at the Saik’uz Multiplex at least 100 people, including cast members, were gathered for the Theatre for Living play titled šxw ?am´et which means “home” in a Coast Salish dialect. The interactive forum theatre production was co-hosted by the Saik’uz First Nation, the Nechako Creative Communities Collective and the Good Neighbours Committee. Saturday evening at the Saik’uz Multiplex was one stop along a tour of 19 B.C/Alberta communities Jan. 17 – Feb. 25, 2018.
A culturally diverse, Indigenous and non-indigenous cast of actors delivered scenes from a variety of every day interactions between settlers, immigrants and Indigenous people who are connected by family, friendship, work or just by virtue of sharing this land we call Canada. The scenes depict a snapshot of their struggles to live and work together and understand one another.
Just like the mix of population in society, each of the play’s characters represent very different world views, perspectives and life experiences, sometimes including direct or indirect trauma. These differences become volatile and build up to a climax of conflict in each scene. The play demonstrates how Reconciliation is not only about what happened in the past, but also something about the blockages we carry in our present lives.
After the first run through of the play the audience was asked to consider “What now?” and how to address blockages such as fear, anger, lack of knowledge, racism, stereotyping, mistrust, and addictions.
The second time around the same scenes were acted out again, but audience members were challenged to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and try to think of ideas on how to resolve the conflict. Audience members could call out “Stop!” to halt the action and go up on stage to step into a character role, and try acting out the scene again, using an idea of how to resolve the conflict.
Theatre provides a perfect vehicle to engage these issues and emotions in a safe place of collective non-judgment. In each scene audience members were empowered to embody the messy, real, tough, current issues we all face and direct the narrative using compassion and brave conversations between the characters to nurture the healing needed to move a step closer towards reconciliation.
As explained by Theatre For Living; “Conversations have been bubbling across the country about this word “Reconciliation” and what it really means. With the ‘Canada 150’ anniversary this past year, and with the closure of the ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ offices in 2015, there are many questions about what these policies, proclamations, and apologies mean to all of us who call this place “home.”
“My takeaway is that people want reconciliation,” said Janice Baker in a post on the GNC (Good Neighbours Committee) Facebook page. “People want to understand each other. People want to right past and current wrongs but most of us just don’t know, personally, how and where to start. The barriers – lack of understanding, fear, mistrust, stereotypes…. etc., aren’t going to be easy to work through. What was clear – a good number of Vanderhoof and Saik’uz residents WANT to work towards reconciliation.”