This new theatrical work debuted in workshop form in Toronto in June of 2014.
Lit up with experimental production/design elements, this workshop presented three times over three days, experimenting with new design elements and text alterations each day at the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York, June 20, 21 and 22.
The venue was a large outdoor tent, fully evocative of the story itself.
Patti Shaughnessy . Actor playing Grace
Steven McCarthy . Actor playing Cain
Brandon Oakes . Actor playing Clem
Lindsey Clark . actor playing Lizzie Mae
Tara Beagan . Director and playwright
Andy Moro . Set, lighting and projection designer
Jeff Chief . Costume designer
Andrew Penner . Sound composition and design
Daniel David Moses . Dramaturg
Jenn Hewitt . Production coordinator
Brittany Ryan . Production management apprentice
Our protagonist, Mary (Patti Shaughnessy), finds herself in a great deal of trouble and very far from home. She has departed the Interior of BC and fled to California. Powerless to the law requiring First Nations children to attend Indian Residential Schools, now unable to see her children while they are in the institution, Mary leaves the painful reminder of what was formerly their shared home for foreign climes. Our play opens when Mary has been terminated from her position as a harvest hand on a cotton plantation. She reacted violently to the plantation owner’s sexual advances, and is being detained in a chain-locked barn. A visiting evangelical minister, Brother Cain (Steven McArthy), intrudes on her captivity, having learned of her penchant for reading to the less literate labourers from the Bible. Mary is soon recruited (in effect, purchased) by the evangelist, to join his “ministry” as the Tamed Heathen. She will become an attraction, a savage reading from scripture on the pulpit stage.
Mary is brought to the ministry tent site, and quickly renamed the less denominationally evocative “Grace” by the ex-communicated former Catholic seminary student, Brother Cain. Pitching crew member and Cree colossus Clem (Brandon Oakes) takes a true shine to Grace, becoming her protector and friend. Clem longs to be more, and declares this to Grace, but Grace knows she must return home to meet her children when they are released from school, and her wayward husband if ever he should return. Grace has not previously experienced the tender, altruistic care Clem offers and feels increasingly torn about her feelings for him as his own love deepens. Meanwhile, she combats stage fright and a more profound fear of her own healing gifts as Brother Cain feigns healing gifts of his own for profit. Grace must face her self-effacing fears, and conquer formerly insurmountable hurt in order to start the journey back home, and to actualize as her true self.
A long road to realization… in thanks
Heartfelt thanks for the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council and the Canada Council’s DSATO program for this workshop presentation.
Thanks, also, to the NAC and to Playwrights Workshop Montreal for their support leading up to this workshop.
Thanks to the supporters of the script and playwright while this play was being developed: Native Earth Performing Arts and the Canada Council for the Arts’ playwright residency program, NEPA’s Weesageechak Festival and Randy Reinholz, the National Arts Centre’s playwright residency and Peter Hinton/Paula Danckert, workshop actors Falen Johnson, Lorne Cardinal, Sean Dixon, Christine Horne, Patti Shaughnessy, Grahame Merke, Keith Barker and Maev Beaty. Alberta Aboriginal Arts read an excerpt at their 2nd annual Rubaboo Festival in Edmonton, with actors Michaela Washburn and Telly James. Workshop actors Patricia Cano, Alex Mccooeye, Kevin Loring and Katie Swift, Pierre Brault and Holly Lewis and Director/dramaturg Daryl Cloran.
Thanks to the production support on this workshop production, with special thanks to Sue Balint.
Special thanks to Great Aunties Hazel Collins and Diana August, Pauline (Harry) Beagan and the late Mary Collins.