Theatre NorthWest has provided a wide array of excellent productions, events and activities that have delighted audiences and participants of all ages since 1994. It is recognized as having one of the highest subscriptions, annual performances and paid attendance rates in Canada. For me, one of the great pleasures of living in Prince George is the Theatre NorthWest experience. It has been a classroom of sorts, where I have laughed and cried as I’ve journeyed through stories that have taught me so much about history, humanity and about myself. Theatre has influenced how I see the world.
In the lightning fast digital age of YouTube, the face to face expression of ideas in live theatre is still surviving as a relevant and important platform in performing arts. While theatre may not have the prominence it once had over the centuries, still something important happens in a live performance that somehow provokes the mind and penetrates the heart like no other.
Such was the case when I saw Isitwendam (An Understanding) this past weekend by Meegwun Fairbrother, co-created by Jack Grinhaus in association with Bound to Create Theatre. This play is about an Indigenous person’s journey to discover his own identity. Meegwun Fairbrother gave an amazing performance, bringing life to nine roles in this one-actor play. In fact, Fairbrother was so entertaining and authentic to watch that I honestly believed there were different actors involved. He crafted the different characters expertly using movement, voice, accents, body and heart to communicate and to convince. He generously and lovingly shared this powerful story based on real life experiences that are difficult to grapple with, yet likely one of the most important conversations we could ever have as a nation, as a community and as humans. This story is truly in our shared DNA.
All of this was combined with a visually stunning stage set that enticed many of my senses. The simplicity and beauty of it was a focal point that quieted my mind and readied me for what was to come. I was transported to another world by expert lighting, dancing shadows and illuminated hope. The sound effects elevated this production and made it real and riveting. I marvel at the creativity and cleverness of the sets at Theatre NorthWest. How do they do it? It never ceases to amaze me.
Isitwendam is a play that touched me and I am no longer the same. Something happened deep inside when I was confronted by this truth. We cannot escape our own history, it is there. No one can change the past. Why was the cruelty and horror of residential schools allowed to happen? What happened to many Indigenous people in our nation? How do we deal with the dark side of our own generational history? What if it is a genocidal history? How can we heal this injustice and reconcile?
Isitwendam has left me with many questions as well as some answers. Answers that can only be found in the truth and in time, quite possibly in generations.