Sam Bob is one of seven šxʷʔam̓ət, cast members. The play will run at Firehall Arts Centre March 3-11. (photo by David Cooper, design by Dafne Blanco)
Vancouver theatre director David Diamond, who founded the Theatre for Living 36 years ago, is hard at work this month on a play titled šxʷʔam̓ət (home), about reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. Eleven performances are scheduled March 3-11 and Diamond says anyone that has any interest in a healthy Canada will find the play interesting.
“I don’t think we necessarily understand where we live but I think we all have a vested interest in living in a healthy country,” he reflected. “The tagline for the play is, What does reconciliation mean to you? Our hope is that we’re asking real questions about how to engage in this (reconciliation), in an honourable way that isn’t a repetition of colonization.”
Diamond was born in Winnipeg and has lived in Vancouver since 1976. Why did he choose the subject of reconciliation for his latest play? “Some of it is just paying attention to what’s happening in the world,” he said. “The Theatre for Living has a long history of working with indigenous communities throughout Canada and the reconciliation issue has gained a lot of prominence in the last couple of years. It feels important to ask these serious questions about reconciliation at a time when a lot of people are questioning whether the process in Canada is even valid.”
The issue of reconciliation has many layers, he added. “Sometimes people want to imagine there’s a solution – but, of course, there isn’t one, there are millions of smaller things that need to happen, that make up larger solutions. We have a lot of conversations to have internally about legacy, colonialism and the reality of the country we live in. Some of those conversations are internal to indigenous communities and only then can we get to the conversations in between communities. All of that has to occur in order for reconciliation to be an honourable, honest and real thing.”
Diamond has been involved in the subject of reconciliation for decades. “I’ve been very privileged and honoured to be invited into conversations on issues that arise out of colonialism and to work with indigenous communities,” he said. “The best thing a production like this can do is ask real and challenging questions, questions that we legitimately don’t have answers to. And then, because the theatre is interactive at every performance, to navigate a very deep conversation every night, that helps transform people’s relationship to the issues.”
Theatre for Living is collaborating with Journeys Around the Circle Society for this production, which began with a workshop and creation process on Jan. 30. It’s the same procedure Diamond has followed for many of his larger shows over the past few decades. Diamond strives to produce interactive theatre that challenges perceptions and creates social change, and this performance will consist of life-based stories woven together, as well as challenges to the audience to make reconciliation respectful and real.
Performances of šxʷʔam̓ət will be held at the Firehall Arts Centre, and tickets cost $15, with matinées priced at two-for-one. The trailer can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=1Srk5Vlvueo and more information can be found at theatreforliving.com.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.