Delta playwright Rosemary Georgeson doesn’t have to look far for stories.
“It’s all right there,” the 60-year-old First Nations woman said. “We all carry them.”
Some of Georgeson’s stories are now making their way to the Vancouver stage, through the play Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way, which Georgeson co-wrote with fellow artists Savannah Walling and Renae Morriseau.
“I’m just sitting here thinking, what good are these stories if they sit in the back of you head and just kind of roll over and over. Let them go,” she said. “And as a playwright, sometimes that’s a good place to keep these stories you don’t need to carry any more.”
The play had its roots in another project of Georgeson’s, Storyweaving, which in turn had its roots in a community theatre play back in 2003.
“It’s always been there, I think, for as long as I can remember,” Georgeson said about the play’s story. “Storyweaving was the beginning of this particular piece. But that was just a bigger, broader look at some of our issues, our stories.”
“Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way is taking a look back at Storyweaving and the story of a family that’s impacted by everything you hear in the media,” she continued.
The play focuses on the story of Old One, a father who is working to reconcile with himself, his family and his community. He is a residential school survivor, and a commercial fisherman. His daughter, Nicole, is working in the Downtown Eastside to help families find their missing loved ones. Her mother is one of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“It’s a typical story, really,” Georgeson said. “It’s a generic story of our people.”
Some of those stories came from her own childhood on Galiano Island, where her father was a commercial fisherman. Once, when she was five, she remembers going with her father to nearby Kuper Island, where a residential school operated until the mid-1970s.
“Being a child and not knowing at the time what it was, and where we were tied up over in Kuper,” she remembered. “Staying in the boat and just looking at that big ugly building. That was one of the stories, you know.”
Throughout the rehearsal process, Georgeson worked with the actors on the fishing scenes, providing support and consultation. But not everything in the play is rehearsed.
During its Vancouver shows, Weaving Reconciliation: Our Story will feature performances by local youth from the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations.
The youth will interact with Trickster, bringing humour and personal stories into the play. It’s an important role for the next generation, in Georgeson’s eyes.
“That’s what this is for,” she said about the play, “to build some understanding … and knock down some of the fears of who we all are.
“In light of all the things that have happened in Canada in the last two years, I think we need a lot more understanding,” she continued, referencing trials for victims Colten Boushie, an Indigenous teen who died in a Saskatchewan shooting, and Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old who was found dead in Winnipeg’s Red River. The accused in both cases were found not guilty.
“Ignorance breeds fear. And fear is the basis of racism,” Georgeson said. “So not knowing who each other is, it’s just going to keep perpetuating this crap.”
That is why Georgeson hopes youth will come to the play: to learn about First Nations stories and get a better understanding of what reconciliation can be.
“As First Nations people, we’ve always been reconciling,” she said. “The government keeps throwing words at us, we’ve been getting words that are trendy. But Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way is looking at it through our eyes … Here we are on the ground and we’re looking at it through our eyes. And that’s what this show is.”
Weaving Reconciliation: Our Story is showing at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Vancouver (1607 E. Hastings St., Vancouver) May 17-19 and 24-26. Doors open at 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets will be sold at the door.