“Children of God,” an Urban Ink company musical written and directed by Corey Payette, will be performed at Surrey Arts Centre on March 22 and 23. (submitted photo: David Cooper)

THEATRE

‘This story needed to be told’: Residential-school horrors revealed in Payette’s musical drama

Touring to Surrey, ‘Children of God’ written from a place of ‘anger and frustration,’ playwright says

In describing Children of God, his acclaimed theatre production, Corey Payette says he wrote a story he and others needed to see.

The Vancouver-based playwright’s musical drama, about an Oji-Cree family whose children are taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario, offers a narrative about resilience, healing and reconciliation.

It’s heavy stuff, and it put Payette on a seven-year journey from script conception early this decade to first staging in the spring of 2017 at a theatre in Vancouver. This month, as part of a B.C. tour, the musical debuts in Surrey at the arts centre’s main stage, on March 22 and 23.

“Back in 2011 when I started writing it,” Payette told the Now-Leader, “it was from a place of anger and frustration that this history had been silenced, and that even I had little knowledge of this history.”

Brave, powerful, emotional, healing, beautiful – these are just a few of the words used to describe Children of God, and even Payette himself calls his play intense.

“The reactions to it differ,” he explained. “The response I get is that so many people needed a show like this, to see a show like this. This story needed to be told, and people need to understand the history.”

The characters, which Payette says are not based on real people, include Rita, “a mother who was never let past the school’s gate,” and her kids, Tom and Julia, “who never knew she came.”

With song, Children of God promises “a thrilling blend of ancient traditions and contemporary realities, celebrating resilience and the power of the Indigenous cultural spirit,” according to promoters of the Surrey dates.

The show’s study guide explains how Canada’s residential school system was designed to “steal” Aboriginal children from their home communities and forcibly turn them into Euro-Christian citizens of Canadian society. “As former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s famous epithet from his 2008 apology to residential school survivors goes, the residential schools were meant ‘to kill the Indian in the child.’”

Produced by Urban Ink, Children of God has a content advisory: “This play contains explicit descriptions and depictions of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and suicide, which can be distressing, traumatic, and/or triggering for members of the audience.”

At Surrey Arts Centre, emotional support workers will be on hand to provide support to audience members who may require it.

“Everywhere we go, we travel with an emotional support team,” Payette said. “These triggers can happen at any time. The show works really well when there are a lot of Indigenous people in the audience, and some of them will need those services, but others won’t. But it’s there if needed, and also for people who have had other traumas in their lives. We know that sometimes the show can become too much.”

Payette said he’s thankful that operators of Surrey Arts Centre “recognize the need for this kind of work to be shown in the community. That’s important. This is a chance for community building, a discussion about this subject, and we do have a post-show discussion about it, a 30-minute conversation about reconciliation.

“These days,” he continued, “the subject of residential schools is talked about, but when I was writing this play, the topic really wasn’t discussed. It was a great shame of our country, and I imagine that’s why people didn’t want to talk about it.”

The Surrey stagings are at 8 p.m. nightly on March 22 and 23. Tickets range in price from $29 to $49 via tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566.

The current touring cast includes Dillan Chiblow (as Tom/Tommy), Michelle St. John (Rita), Michelle Bardach (Joanna/Secretary), Sarah Carlé (Sister Bernadette), Aaron M. Wells (Wilson/Fight Captain), Cheyenne Scott (Julia), David Keeley (Father Christopher), Jacob MacInnes (Vincent) and Kaitlyn Yott (Elizabeth).

• RELATED STORIES:

Prominent puppeteer coming to Surrey with ‘Metamorphosis’ show for adults

SURREY EVENTS GUIDE for Feb. 27 and beyond



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

Drugs and guns seized by Chilliwack Mounties in complex case

Drug trafficking investigations led to five arrests in three different locations across Chilliwack

Chilliwack RCMP trying to catch robbery suspect

Police hope someone will identify the person who appears in security camera footage

Chilliwack churns out new generation of wildfire fighters

School district partners with B.C. Wildfire Service to prep Grade 12s for careers

Bucket-list flight for Chilliwack grandmother

Hampton House resident treated to a beautiful plane ride in Moments that Matter

UFV introduces first mindfulness graduate program in Canada

Most of the University of the Fraser Valley program is offered online

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Six ‘distraction thefts’ in two days spark warning to seniors by Vancouver police

Distraction thefts are used to steal jewelry off the necks of unsuspecting women

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

WATCH: Popular Glow festival faces cancellation in dispute over farm land

Langley’s Darvonda Nurseries received a compliance assessment notice from the ALC on March 5.

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Most Read