As the country celebrates its 150th anniversary, people are being reminded of all the good Canada has done for the world. However, there is a looming darkness in our past that cannot be forgotten.
Powerhouse Theatre presents Sisters, directed by Debra Bob, April 26 – May 6. Set between 1932-1969, Sisters follows sister Mary, played by both Destiny MacWatters and Jenn Gretzinger, and her journey to becoming a nun at a Canadian convent-run residential school.
The play begins on the farm with a young Mary and her lover, who is adamant to marry and have children.
“She’s just as adamant to go become a nun,” said Bob.
Mary gets her way, and soon enough, she’s working at the residential school.
“She doesn’t know at the time the impact residential school will have on the students and herself,” said Bob. “Her experience with residential school is not what she thought she’d get.”
As the play fades out of Mary’s memory and into the present, she’s being detained in a lockup after being accused of burning down the school.
“The play is about a woman’s memory and the choices she makes, and what happens when things don’t turn out the way you thought they’d turn out,” said Bob.
Despite the serious subject matter, the play is host to some humour as well.
“I wouldn’t call it dark,” said Barb Keith, board member of Powerhouse Theatre “There’s some humour — more pathos, maybe.
“I think dramatically it’s going to be a success. I think the piece is really important.”
Originally produced in 1989 and printed in 1991, Sisters is just as relevant now as it was when playwright and former parliamentarian Wendy Lill wrote it.
Lill was already working on a play about nuns, and the problems surrounding the residential school system were coming to the forefront, so Lill combined the two to create the award-winning play.
“She’s a phenomenal playwright,” said Bob.
Being the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Powerhouse decided to showcase the work of Canadian playwrights.
“This was the one that resonated with them,” said Bob.
As a survivor of the Williams Lake residential school, Bob was skeptical about directing Sisters.
“When they first asked me, I said no,” said Bob. “They thought it would be interesting to see my take. In all honesty, when I first got the play, I didn’t want to do it. It’s not something you just do.”
Bob was urged to reconsider, and after thinking it through, decided she should be the one to direct the play.
“I thought I could give a perspective through the play to speak about this without hitting them over the head with it,” said Bob. “The reason, as a residential school survivor, was to give a different voice. I could never understand how people didn’t see the negative impact.
“Theatre is the perfect venue for having that political voice.”
But Bob is adamant not to make the play about herself.
“It’s been really interesting to hear other peoples’ points of view,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of discussion around this issue.”
To Bob, it’s a story about life and the difficult roads people are forced to take.
“All through our life, we stand at turning points and we make a decision. We look back, and think, ‘What if I didn’t take that road?’
“For me, it’s about choices and intention. I think this is a story that allows people to have reflection, and that’s what theatre really is.”
Powerhouse Theatre presents Sisters, April 26-29 at 7:30 p.m., April 30 at 2 p.m., May 2-6 at 7:30 p.m., and May 6 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, call the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469 or visit www.ticketseller.ca.