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Echoes, reconnecting community and culture

A theatre project seven years in the making will soon hit the stage, showcasing local Indigenous talent through a story based on real local experiences.

A theatre project seven years in the making will soon hit the stage, showcasing local Indigenous talent through a story based on real local experiences.

Echoes of the Homesick Heart is the work of playwright Laura Michel.

It is set to make its world premiere at Pavilion Theatre, running from June 2 to June 11.

The play highlights the work of those keeping language and culture alive through their daily work.

Michel’s storytelling revolves around an Indigenous family and draws directly from more than 40 interviews with those living across the Secwépemc Nation.

“I think it’s a story that needs to be told because, unless you know Indigenous people, unless you’re friends with them and frequently go to their houses, you don’t really know how Indigenous people work or are,” said actor Chris Bose, who plays the middle-aged character, Abe.

Bose’s character is much like his real life: an Indigenous family man who works with youth and elders, often bridging the two gaps through his work.

Not only does the play mirror his current life, but it mirrors his history, too.

Bose said his parents were made to be ashamed of speaking their language at a residential school and, because of that, he never learned it. “Only when I got older did I start learning it again,” he said.

Bose’s experience echoes Michel’s. All four of her grandparents attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

All four later became language teachers. Michel said the play’s dialogue is mostly pulled directly from the interviews, though it is not strictly verbatim and the story is fictional.

“Even though somebody’s words might have been used in the scene, the reason the words were used was because there were so many different individuals that had expressed the same thing,” she said.

The play’s title was chosen based on the “echoes” Michel heard so often throughout her interviews.

But the focus of Echoes is not on the shared trauma experienced by Secwépemc people, but instead on what comes next.

She wants to highlight the work done by those working to reclaim and revitalize the nation’s language and culture.

Bose said he knows how important it is to reconnect to one’s own community and culture and to have opportunities to do so.

“Loss of culture, loss of language — sometimes it makes people angry, sometimes it makes people sad, sometimes it makes people hungry to learn it and want to reclaim it,” he said.

The loss of an elder in an Indigenous community means the loss of language and cultural knowledge, Bose said. Each is like losing an “encyclopedia of knowledge,” he said.

The opportunity to perform in the play is something he said he values. “It’s awesome, man.

To actually be saying these words on stage, to have an Indigenous-based play, I never thought I’d see it here in my lifetime, but here we are. We’re doing it,” he said.

For tickets and more information, go online to wctlive.ca/echoes.