“Storyweaving” brings First Nations’ stories to life

(l-r) Marge C. White, Muriel Williams, Priscillia Tait, Kat Norris Photo: David Cooper

May 11-13 & 18-20, 2012
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm (Doors open 7pm)
Sunday Matinees at 2 pm (Doors open  1:30pm)
By donation $0-$20. Limited seating.

Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre
Chief Simon Baker Room, 1607 East Hastings Street

special contribution by X MacDonald
Vancouver Moving Theatre’s Storyweaving is like an open concept loft with plenty of space to create, sing, dance and relate through the past, along the present and into the future. VMT produces relevant theatre by, about and for the downtown east side community and they know their source, environment and audience well. Directed by Renae Morriseau, the show’s aim is to exorcise demons and embrace healing all in the same breath and odd as it may sound, quite naturally they achieve that.
The evening began with a blessing given by Musqueam Chief Victor Guerin followed by a welcome and dance by Spakwus Slulum (Eagle Dancers). At no time is the audience ignored throughout this. Instead we are accepted as an integral part of the story for the evening. The intimacy of the Chief Simon Baker Room of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre helps us feel included. The space is technically limited, but this is actually to its credit as it functions like a swift moving canoe, agile and responsive to the needs of the moment. This is well too because the play moves through time rapidly as each scene requires sometimes existing in two or three periods at once. We work our way through many issues in a short time, but dwell too long on none. Nicole, played by Priscilla Mays Tait, is searching for her mother missing from the downtown east side and Marge C White as the voice of the North leads the exposure of life in the residential schools. Rather than bludgeon us with the horrors of these events and circumstances the storytellers open their hearts and reveal their experiences and feelings and move on allowing the audience the opportunity to attach our own emotional response to the moments. Our feelings are evoked, respected and included.
The acting ranges from somewhat clumsy to bold, but this is the nature of community based work and it’s easy to forgive the shortcomings because the honesty in presentation is so pure. You wouldn’t condemn your grandmother for having a shaky voice when she tells you a story of when she was a girl and so you shouldn’t be too critical of these people for their quavers. Of special note is Sam Bob’s portrayal of Old One. He is our reference through the shifting landscape more than anyone else and he’s imminently likeable. At one point Old One tells his sister that his Indian name is Gentle Mountain Lion and it’s not far off the mark, but I found him to be more of a giant cheerful chipmunk, whimsical and adorable, but a mighty too.
By the time Spakwus Slulum returns for a final song and dance there is power and yes even defiance in the air. Always there is the undercurrent of hope. Two centuries of misunderstanding, misfortune and mistreatment could not destroy the spirit of the Coast Salish peoples who remain strong, compassionate and honourable. It has been their legacy for over ten thousand years after all. They do us a great service to show us their hospitality and we would all be wise to learn from their wisdom and grace. Storyweaving runs May 11-13 & 18-20 in the Chief Simon Baker Room of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre 1607 East Hastings at Commercial Drive at 7:30pm.

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