CapU grad debuts original Indigenous play
Lil̓wat7úl artist Yvonne Wallace has a big dream and its coming to life this week. Her original one-woman play, which uncovers Indigenous knowledge, humour, strength and resilience through language reclamation, is running September 19-22 at the Maury Young Arts Centre in Whistler.
The playwright and actress first started writing the play "utszan" (to make things better) three years ago as her graduating project from the liberal arts program at Capilano University.
The show primarily focuses on a woman named Celia who tries to teach her niece Margaret to speak Ucwalmicwts, the traditional Lil'wat language. Through that process, the play touches on themes of cultural learning, understanding and reconciliation. While growing up in Mount Currie, B.C., Wallace did not become fluent in Ucwalmicwts, so part of the writing process was learning her traditional language.
As Canadians wrestle with the legacies of colonialism, and how to forge a new path forward through Truth and Reconciliation, “útszan” offers a forum for cultural learning, understanding and reconciliation. Timing of this play also coincides with the lead up to Truth and Reconciliation Week and Orange Shirt Day on campus.
"I think we have to remember that Canada [had] a strategy that left Indigenous people out of many conversations," Yvonne Wallace told Whistler’s Pique news magazine. "On every level, a dialogue between two people is essential to move forward and [foster] healing that needs to happen. I want people to ask questions about our language and I want people to know where to source help if they need it. I want to create a safe space where people can just have a full experience. I don't want them to walk away without understanding."
For this reason, Wallace is holding a post-production conversation with the audience following each performance. She wants to provide a forum for asking important questions to lay the foundation for greater understanding and compassion—both of which she feels are integral to forging a path of healing, reconciliation and friendship.
Wallace first performed the play in April 2018 at the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts on campus for an invited group of people including family, and members of the Lil’Wat Nation and the Capilano University community.
"It was a beautiful mix of elders, teachers, faculty from the university, and youth ... [With] the younger students, we went into the First Nations lounge at Capliano University and had lunch together. Before I even arrived, these youth where serving our elders, making them feel welcome and having a conversation. It was the kind of perfect day I imagined it to be after working on it for three years. It wasn't so much about me as it was about practicing all these things that make us beautiful as a people," she continued.
The play is presented by Arts Whistler in collaboration with: Whistler Community Services Society, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Community Foundation of Whistler, Líl̓wat Nation, Dream Makers Literacy Coalition and Whistler Blackcomb.
Submitted by: Linda Munro