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Story of fearless woman featured on $10 bills hits Vernon stage

Viola Desmond: The Soundtrack of a Life plays Oct. 4

The story of a trailblazing Canadian civil rights hero is brought to life through the songs of the era in Hey Viola!

Viola Desmond: The Soundtrack of a Life starring Vancouver songstress Krystle Dos Santos, takes the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre (VDPAC) stage Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m.

It is the first performance of the 2023-24 Spotlight Season’s Theatre Series, and VDPAC’s 22nd annual birthday bash celebration.

Hey Viola! takes the audience on an extraordinary journey through the life of the fearless woman featured on Canada’s $10 bill.

This musical exploration weaves the story of Desmond’s life together with brilliant hits of the era from Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, The Mills Brothers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Richard M. Jones, and more, plus songs that influenced history including Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, A Change is Gonna Come, Sinnerman, and Mississippi Goddam.

Acclaimed actor, blues, jazz and soul singer Dos Santos stars as Viola along side a three-piece band in this intimate, cabaret-style performance that the Vancouver Sun called “first-rate entertainment.”

Dos Santos has teamed up with director Tracey Power, creator of Glory, Chelsea Hotel, and The Songs of Leonard Cohen to adapt for the stage this powerful, true story of resilience.

“I feel so honoured to be able to share Viola’s story, she was such an incredible, driven, intelligent and strong woman, an inspiration on so many levels,” said Dos Santos. “Her story is such an important message to share and is still relevant in today’s world. As Canadians, we have to recognize that this is not a unique story in our history, but one that reflects an imperfect culture, past and present, and is one of many examples of how we can always strive to be better.”

For those interested in learning more about Viola Desmond’s story and the history of civil rights in Canada, VDPAC will host a special screening of the documentary Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 12 p.m in the Marie Fleming Studio. Admission is free but space is limited. Advanced registration is encouraged at, where you can also purchase tickets to Hey Viola!

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Krystle Dos Santos plays Viola Desmond, Canadian civil rights hero, at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Oct. 4. (photo by David Cooper)

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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