Back in 1986, The Rez Sisters by Cree playwright Thomson Highway, was first performed to much critical acclaim. But the play has been all but shelved since.
Alcoholism, abuse, shared lovers, and lesbianism are all on display in the performance, yet other plays have tackled more difficult issues and have been staged again and again.
Perhaps it was what reviewers and audiences described as a "gritty, realistic" play that made producers uncomfortable. But more likely, it was the fear of casting non-First Nations actors in aboriginal roles. Nevertheless, director Deborah Neville of Douglas College saw the beauty in this play.
"There was this dry period where this beautiful thing went on ice because nobody would touch it," Neville said.
She's now bringing it to life on the college's Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre stage in New Westminster this month, with Aldergrove's Meghan Somerville front and centre.
Somerville, a second-year theatre student at Douglas College, plays Annie, who has lost a lover to one of her sisters. The story of her hope, pain, and dreams unfolds with that of the other cast members in the two-act play.
The plot sees the seven women, all related in some way or another, take a van from the reserve to Toronto to try to win the world's biggest bingo.
The 19-year-old D.W. Poppy grad has been immersed in acting since Grade 6, but said this role is a dramatic shift from the musical theatre she's always focused on. This, Somerville described, is her first serious role and biggest part yet, requiring her to really explore aboriginal culture and her character - to learn how to carry her struggles while hiding them from the world.
"But she's a lot of fun. she's very country. I'm not very country. She wears cowboy boots and lives Patsy Cline," Somerville said, admitting she's developed an affinity for the singing legend while rehearsing for this play.
While Somerville has grown as an actor, she's also learned a great deal more than she ever expected about aboriginal culture through this play, and is grateful for that insight.
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