Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout opens Jan. 11 at the UFV theatre on Yale Road.

Highway play about how Ernestine gets her trout

UFV Theatre production by Thomson Highway is bittersweet and funny with historical elements and timely issues.

It’s a new production by UFV Theatre with bittersweet, funny and historical elements.

In Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout, four women of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Thompson First Nations are preparing for a sumptuous feast to honour the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1910.

Everything must be perfect for the visit, from the Saskatoon pies, to stuffed beaver, and of course, Ernestine’s famous trout.

Events over 100 years — from first contact to the time of Sir Laurier’s arrival — are creatively condensed into the time frame of a single day in the play.

The topics are also relevant in the current age of the Idle No More movement, says director Heather Davis-Fisch. She picked the Thomson Highway play, Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout for the UFV Theatre students last April.

“It’s crazy. We were talking about how shocking and how contemporary it is, with some of the same questions coming up.

“It shows some of the issues raised in Idle No More have a history that stretches back a hundred years. I think it’s a cool way of representing history.”

It’s the first time in the director’s chair at UFV for Davis-Fisch, and the first time as well on the main stage for all four actors.

Lisa Apps takes on the title role of Ernestine, while Mandy Dyck plays Isabel, Phaydra-Rae Gagnon is Delilah Rose and Geneva Perkins is Annabelle.

“What I think it says is that we probably still have a long way to go to get some of these issues between the federal government and First Nations resolved,” she says. “Canada has a lot to work out, and the play really shows it.”

Dramaturge for this production is Megan Davies, which is a role in a theatrical production that can provide research and background information to better explain some the context of the play’s action. The lobby will feature an elaborate display for Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout with historical photographs, and a special matinée geared for schools.

Highway’s subject matter, of curtailed hunting and trapping rights and culture clash, is pretty serious, says the director.

“But like his other plays, you’re also laughing for two thirds of it,” she says.

Some of the humour is decidedly risqué.

Set design is by the same person who did the set and costumes for last Year’s Arabian Nights production.

With this project, set designer and scenographer Jay Havens, a UFV alum, has been collaborating with students in creating a cohesive look for the production, partly in his role of artist-in-residence.

“The show has a really spectacular look to it,” she says. “They’ve been having design meetings since last September and they’re done a fantastic job.

“There will be extensive use of projections, with attention to lighting, costume design and more.”

Assistant director is Gabby Bohmer. Costume design is by Aaron Froc, with lighting design by Gabriel Kirkley and sound design by Dylan Coulter. Stage manager is Cait Archer.

Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout opens Friday, January 11 at 7.30 pm. in the theatre on the Chilliwack North campus on the corner of Yale and Airport, with two half price previews January 9 and 10 and plays January 12, 17, 18,19,24,25 and 26, with matinees Sunday, January 20 and 27 at 2pm. and Monday, January 21 at 12 noon. Ticket prices range between $10 to $22. The January 20 matinee is a special pay-what-you-can performance with a recommended minimum price of $10.

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