Writer Joseph Anthony Dandurand was an intern at the Museum of Civilization about 25 years ago when he wrote an interpretation of a Kwantlen First Nations legend.
Now he is getting to see his work Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, staged at the Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver this week and at two free performances in Langley Friday, Feb. 16.
The story’s main character Th’owixya comes from a “myth about a woman of the woods, a cannibal, a basket ogress and I have created a story around her,” he said.
Th’owixya holds delicious foods in her mouth but if someone steals any, she will eat them and their family.
“In this story a mouse steals a piece of cheese from her and is caught and now must bring to her two children or else she will eat the mouse and her family,” Dandurand explained.
Two young bears and a worm-eating raven help mouse take a journey to earn forgiveness.
While the legend is typically told to children, it’s a tale for adults as well.
“I believe children will take away the simple teaching that if you take something from the earth, you must give something back,” he said. “An example of this is the Kwantlen have an annual First Fish Ceremony where we give back the bones of the first fish caught.”
Dandurand’s play sat amidst a stack of other writing the 53-year-old had done over the years. The only thing that changed in that time was how technology impacted his work.
“I studied theater at Ottawa U and I had been writing poetry and then began to write plays,” Dandurand said. “Before, as a writer, you had to send out scripts and poems with a SASE for them to mail you the rejection.
Nowadays you can find theater companies or poetry mags that accept unsolicited materials… and now I get rejected by email,” he quipped.
So he took the unusual step of amassing his work and sending out the bundle to see if anyone was interested.
Axis Theatre didn’t respond with a rejection notice.
“Axis said they were interested in my work and did I have any plays for children so I dug up this piece I had written 25 years ago while an intern,” he explained.
Axis and Dandurand workshopped the piece with paid actors and it’s now a finished script that’s being staged.
There are local shows at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16 at the Kwantlen Culture Centre, 23907 Gabriel Rd., on McMillan Island. Each showing can seat about 130 people. Dandurand asks that people RSVP to him directly at 604-761-2007 with the number of people in their party.
The 17th annual Talking Stick Festival performances are Feb. 13 to 15 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. with shows at noon and 3 p.m.on Feb. 17. They take place at the Roundhouse Performance Centre. The shows Feb. 13 to 15 are pay-what-you-can while the Feb. 17 show is $15 for adults, $10 for students, seniors and those with accessibility issues, and $5 for children 10 and younger.
Dandurand lives with his three children on the Kwantlen lands, and is director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre. In addition to receiving his diploma in performing arts from Algonquin College, he studied theatre and direction at the University of Ottawa.
Dandurand has published two books of poetry – I Want, and Hear and Foretell, both in 2015. His latest book, The Rumour, will be published this year.