What does reconciliation really mean?
That’s what Theatre for Living asks with its powerful performance šxʷʔam̓ət (home). The live theatre production debuted in Vancouver last year, and immediately the company was flooded with requests for a tour. And so, in January and Febuary they will visit 21 different communities to share their compelling story with audiences across B.C. and Alberta, including Chilliwack on Jan. 17.
The production is not just about putting on a play and leaving it there on the stage. It’s about engaging audiences, before, during and after the show. For example, even the title of the show is explained in detail. The title, šxʷʔam̓ət, is based on a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Indigenous dialect) word used to reference home. The Musqueam Language and Culture Department created a pronunciation guide, and an audio recording featuring Musqueam Elder Larry Grant.
On the production’s webpage, it’s explained that the š is pronounced like English “sh”, while the xʷ sounds like the “wh” in “which”. The stress is on the first syllable, like in the name “Amit”. ʔam̓ sounds like the first syllable in the word “omelet”. ət sounds like the second syllable of the word “comet”.
And after the production tours B.C. and Alberta, they will hold a final performance on March 10. That will be broadcast globally, so anyone with an internet connection can tune in. But they won’t just be watching. They can access “webactors” acting as intervenors. Those actors will be behind the scenes with computers taking part in live chat rooms, and able to intervene on stage on viewers behalf.
The more viewers the better. Theatre for Living has been producing live webcast plays for 25 years, as a pioneer in the concept in 1989. They encourage people to gather and watch together, to share ideas and chat online with the backstage actors, and to get conversations going as a way to actively work through what reconciliation can look like.
šxʷʔam̓ət is directed by David Diamond with associate director Renae Morriseau. The original play was workshopped by a courageous group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members and then created and performed by a cast of seven original and relevant voices, from a diverse range of Canadian society. The cast includes Asivak Koostachin, Joey Lespérance, Madeline Terbasket, Rev. Margaret Roberts, Mutya Macatumpag, Nayden Palosaari and Sam Seward.
The production company makes special acknowledgement to Sam Bob who originated the role of Joe and to Tom Scholte who originated the role of Doug (now Robert). Neither cast member could tour.
Chilliwack’s show is the tour’s opening night, with shows following in Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox, Campbell River, Port Hardy, Kitamaat, Hazelton, Vanderhoof, Prince George, Chetwynd, Nelson, Penticton, Kamloops and select cities in Alberta.
For more information, visit www.theatreforliving.com.
To learn more about the Chilliwack showing, on Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tzeachten Community Centre, phone 604-824-3211.
In Canada, Health Support Services for Former Indian Residential Schools Students: An Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her residential school experience.