Stage Door News
Stratford: Previews begin August 23 for the world premiere of “1939”
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
1939, a Stratford Festival commission written by Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn Riordan, starts previews at the Studio Theatre on August 23, directed by Lauzon.
This play is brought to life for the first time by actors Richard Comeau as Joseph Summers, Wahsonti:io Kirby as Evelyne Rice, Kathleen MacLean as Susan Blackbird, Tara Sky as Beth Summers and John Wamsley as Jean Delorme with Sarah Dodd, Jacklyn Francis and Mike Shara.
The production features set design by Joanna Yu, costume design by Asa Benally, lighting design by Louise Guinand, sound design and composition by Wayne Kelso, dramaturgy by Jessica Carmichael and Sorouja Moll.
1939 finds us in a fictional Residential School in Northern Ontario where, anticipating a visit by King George VI, an English teacher enlists her students in a production of All’s Well That Ends Well. But her rigid ideas of how Shakespeare should be performed are challenged as her Indigenous students start finding parallels between themselves and the characters in the play – and, far from letting themselves be defined by colonial expectations, set out to make Shakespeare’s bitter-sweet comedy defiantly their own.
“Although this is not the first play that has been written about the incredible resilience of Residential School survivors, what differs now,” says Lauzon, “is that organizations like Stratford are lending support and curious audiences are coming to witness and listen. We are now able to create theatre with highly trained Indigenous actors, together with spiritual support from Elders and Knowledge Keepers. We are having conversations around Cultural Intimacy and using circular communication to transform the way we create theatre.” With all of this coming together, Lauzon sees that “the change that so many have fought for is finally happening.”
For each ticket sold to 1939, $5 will be donated jointly to the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Atlohsa Family Healing Services.
A space for reflection will be available adjacent to the Studio Theatre following performances of 1939. This space will feature artist Tom Wilson’s Fading Memories of Home, an installation selected by the playwrights that explores the systemic erasure of Indigenous culture in residential schools. Tom Wilson is a musician, visual artist and writer of novels and non-fiction. At the age of fifty-three, it was revealed to him that he was adopted, and his parents were actually Kahnawake Mohawks. Moreover, the woman he’d been raised to believe was his aunt was his mother. Since then, Wilson has explored what his white upbringing means against the juxtaposition of his family and culture. Wilson’s art installation will be on view in the reflection space, which is facilitated by Kelly Fran Davis, a professor of Indigenous histories and cultures in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University. All are welcome.
1939 has its opening on September 11 and runs until October 29. For tickets and information visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.
Production support is generously provided by Karon C. Bales & Charles E. Beall and by M. Fainer. Support for the creation of 1939 is generously provided by the Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program.
The 2022 season runs until October 30, featuring Hamlet, Chicago, The Miser, Little Women, Richard III, All’s Well That Ends Well, Death and the King’s Horseman, Every Little Nookie, Hamlet-911 and 1939.
The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association’s (CSAA) mission is to provide for the well-being of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni who are former students of the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Indian Residential Schools, their families and their communities. shingwauk.org
Atlohsa has been serving individuals and families across Southwestern Ontario since 1986 providing low-barrier wraparound services to community members with complex needs, including mental wellness, substance use, homelessness, domestic violence and trauma. Atlohsa specializes in providing strengths-based healing and wellness supports, utilizing trauma-informed and harm reduction approaches. atlohsa.com
Photo: Kathleen MacLean, Richard Comeau, Wahsonti:io Kirby and Tara Sky. © 2022 David Hou.