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Theatre NorthWest honours Truth and Reconciliation Day with fundraiser

The theatre is hosting a heavy hitting stage-reading of the play Sisters
Sisters stage reading TNW
Gil Botelho, Lynn Brown and Cindy Marcotte perform a scene from the play.

Theatre NorthWest is acknowledging Truth and Reconciliation Day with a heavy-hitting stage reading of the play Sisters by Wendy Lill.

It’s the theatre’s third stage reading of the season and proceeds from the ticket sales and donations will go to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society.

Sisters was written in the early 1990s. It is a memory play of one nun’s time in a residential school in the late 1960s. As such, there is a lot of triggering content and outdated language that audiences should be aware of before coming to the theatre.

“It is from the perspective of some of the nuns who are working in the residential school and that's kind of a direct reflection on the background of the playwright herself. She is a white woman and so that's kind of the most appropriate perspective she could write from,” explains director Anna Russell.

“[Audiences] should be expecting some triggering content, certainly some outdated language, and terminology that may be difficult for some members of the audience. But that is reflective of the time and place that the play is set.”

The play is set in the Maritimes in the late 1960s and it also contains some dark themes about what went on in the residential schools.

It chronicles in graphic detail the by now well-documented agenda of cultural genocide which motivated the establishment of residential schools in Canada.

However, the play also reveals the far less well-documented cultural infrastructure and values of the society which created those schools – the church and the state of white, colonial paternalist Canada.

Russell stresses that everyone who’s interested in attending the performance should know that ahead of time.

“I know us as a cast, while we've been rehearsing, have had some really important discussions and shared some really important stories on our own kind of journeys towards truth and reconciliation.”

Russell says Truth and Reconciliation Day is the most important day Canadians have in their calendar right now, and it was important for her to find a way to acknowledge and support truth and reconciliation, which is why she chose to present this play.

“I really felt that it was time for me to kind of step out of watching other people do things and I felt this was a way I could contribute, hopefully, have the audience resonate with what's going on on-stage.”

Russell said she hopes the play will inspire discussion and that someone in the audience will be inspired to read the Truth and Reconciliation commissions 94 Calls to Action.

“We have all worked very hard to put this together in a sensitive sort of way and we hope that for the community - if you're looking for a way to kind of continue on your own journey of truth and reconciliation - we think this is a valuable way.”

Actor Gil Botelho who plays Stein said Sisters is a powerful piece and is not your average comedy or drama.

“I think what people will get out of it is that they're going to at least have some sort of understanding of what went on and probably the most important thing is just bringing awareness of what happened and start that path to healing that we all need to do,” said Botelho.

“It's a pretty deep subject and I'm just hoping that we can do it justice and bring this to light in a proper way that would educate people.”

Tickets are available now on the Theatre NorthWest ticketing site and the play takes place Sunday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides 24-hour crisis support to survivors of residential schools and their families, toll-free at 1-866-925-4419.

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