Emotionally challenging meetings between residential school survivors and a group of high school actors provided students with a solid historical foundation to bring Sisters to the stage.
Sisters, written by Wendy Lill, is a tale of human struggle of will, stress and circumstance. Sisters is the story of a nun who burns down a residential school where she taught.
“People think that everyone was terrible and mean working in the school. A lot of people went in with good intentions; they cared about the children,” says Lambrick Park secondary student Abbie Hodges. “When you put them in a different and stressful environment, (people) can change.”
Student actors from Lambrick Park secondary and Spectrum Community schools in Saanich will work alongside peers from Cowichan secondary to bring to the stage in Saanich and Duncan.
Hodges worried how survivors would feel and react hearing the students were performing this particular play.
“They’re excited. They aren’t bitter, they’re willing to move on and forgive,” she says.
Sisters explores the human devastation on both sides in a fictional convent-run residential school.
“It’s an interesting look at people and humanity and how people can change,” adds youth actor Isabella Goodman, a Cowichan student. “Despite not being a proud moment in our history, this script is an unvarnished look at the events.”
Most students thought residential schools were long history and were surprised to learn the last of the schools closed as recently as 1996. They hope this play provides a venue for conversation.
“It’s a more interesting way to talk about (the topic of residential schools) and a neutral basis, ‘Here, take what you want from it’,” says Lambrick student Elias Whitfield. “They did what they could, but it wasn’t a good system.”
Director Mike Moroz, a fine arts teacher at Cowichan secondary, says emotionally challenging the students was intentional.
“We have a lot of great (Canadian) plays that should be celebrated,” he says. “Students are more talented than we give them credit for. We diminish their capabilities by handing them pablum.”
Sisters is on stage at Spectrum on April 30 and May 2 at 7:30 p.m., and at Lambrick Park for two student matinees on May 1 and 2, with an evening performance on May 1 at 7:30 p.m. before shifting to a Duncan venue for performances on May 15 to 17.
Get tickets online at brownpapertickets.com/event/607834
– with files from Peter Rusland