Children of God is getting all the BUZZ! – Must close March 10!
Corey Payette’s powerful musical, from Urban Ink, about the impact of Canadian residential schools has now been witnessed by over 35,000 people on stages across the country. People can not stop raving about this play; over and over we hear, ‘must-see’, ‘essential’, and ‘vital’, being used to describe it. Check out some of the latest reviews:
“Children of God truly is a must-see for all Canadians, as a lesson about the true history of our country.” —VANCOUVER PRESENTS
“A triumph of dramatic ceremony.” —BROKEN LEG REVIEWS
“Powerful, exciting and emotional.” —TWO CENTS & TWO PENCE
“If you haven’t seen Children of God yet, you should go. Yes, partly because every Canadian needs to understand the legacy of residential schools, but also because it’s an excellent script performed by top-notch double-threat actor/singers and, even when the subject matter gets dark, it’s a real treat to see them perform”—ILIVEINEASTVAN
“One of the most vital and powerful new works in Canadian musical theatre.” —MONTREAL THEATRE HUB
Social media has been lighting up with amazing personal reflections and recommendations:
Children of Godis back in the York Theatre (until March 10, 2019) after a national tour, and its highly successful 2017 world premiere at The Cultch.
In this powerful musical, by Corey Payette, the children of an Oji-Cree family are sent to a residential school in Northern Ontario. This is a story of redemption: for a mother who was never let past the school’s gate, and her kids, who never knew she came. Children of God offers a thrilling blend of ancient traditions and contemporary realities, celebrating resilience and the power of the Indigenous cultural spirit.
The history of residential schools in Canada is a dark part of this country’s history. This selection from the Children of God study guideis a good starting place for those wanting to inform themselves about Canada’s past and present.
Residential Schools In Canada (Background)
The residential school system in Canada 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.”
Set up by the federal government, and primarily run by the church, the residential schools sprawled across the nation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The last one did not close until 1996.
The system was rooted in the idea that European civilization was superior to the diverse civilizations of the Indigenous peoples, and that it was thus Canada’s moral, and God-given, responsibility to save Aboriginal children from themselves. By isolating the children from their lands, their languages, their relations, and their traditions; and simultaneously immersing them in European customs, primarily rigid gender roles, Anglo-monolingualism, and industrial vocational training, it was thought that Aboriginal communities would die out, and that a unified Canadian nation would emerge.
Residential schools, at their core, were built to commit what is called ‘cultural genocide’. These schools often became places where children would do menial tasks designed to keep the schools open at low cost, rather than as sites of meaningful education. It is also widely reported that these schools were sites of brutal physical, emotional, and sexual abuse against the children, often as punishment for speaking their traditional language, or trying to escape. Many children died while at these schools.
Residential Schools—Lasting Effects
As Children of God will explore, the horrible legacy of the residential school system is still felt today by many Indigenous peoples.
Many of the youth who attended residential schools not only grew up learning to hate their culture, but also grew up not learning how to raise a family, often in an atmosphere of physical and sexual abuse. This has had disastrous impacts for Indigenous communities. For many, survivors of the schools grew into adulthood lacking parenting skills, fostering another generation of children without a nurturing family environment. In many communities today, rates of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and youth suicide are high, many cases of which observers have traced back to the residential school system and the lack of self-esteem it instilled in the students. This ongoing process of undermining community well-being and cohesion, despite the schools being closed, is often referred to as intergenerational trauma.
Healing from Residential Schools
While understanding the vile history of residential schools and the lingering ramifications of this system, it is also important to pause and recognize that this trauma does not define Indigenous peoples and their communities. Many First Nations communities today are healthy and thriving, have a strong connection to their lands and traditions, and are raising younger generations that are eager and ready to continue this process.
On a national scale, it is becoming more common to talk about the residential schools in an honest way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike—partly in thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see below)—which sought to offer space and a platform for survivors of the schools to talk about their experiences as a means of mending relations between Canada and Indigenous nations. Reconciliation politics is by no means perfect, as many First Nations are waiting for the federal government to deliver on its promise of better futures, but we now have valuable entry points into necessary conversations around what healing can look like.
Many communities that still experience the lingering impact of residential schools are taking matters into their own hands, and are looking to break cycles of intergenerational trauma through their own community-led initiatives, such as education, residential school survivor-oriented societies, and drug and alcohol intervention programs (see below).
We are so proud to have partnered up with Urban Ink, Fugue Theatre and Raven Theatre to present Les Fille du Roi. Les Filles du Roi runs until May 27 at the York Theatre. The amazing creators of Children of God (which is coming back to The Cultch due to popular demand,Feb 20 – Mar 10, 2019) have done it again!
Les Filles du Roi is the powerful story of Kateri, a young Mohawk girl, and her brother Jean-Baptiste whose lives are disrupted upon the arrival of les filles du roi in 1665. They forge an unlikely relationship with young fille Marie-Jeanne Lespérance – whose dreams of a new life are more complicated than she could have imagined. Over the course of a year, Mohawk, French and English journeys collide, setting the stage for the Canada we know today.
Photo by David Cooper. Les Filles du Roi a new musical by Corey Payette & Julie McIsaac. Directed by Corey Payette, Production Design (Set/Costume/Props) by Marshall McMahen, Lighting Design by Jeff Harrison. A Fugue Theatre/RavenTheatre production in association with Urban Ink and The Cultch. Actors: Kayla Dunbar, Chelsea Rose, Cecilly Day, Julie McIsaac (in center), Lisa Goebel, Synthia Yusuf, and Merewyn Comeau.
It has been getting great REVIEWS! Check out a few of them here:
“Les Filles du Roi’s trilingual, feminist-Indigenous musical is a triumph…a work of monumental importance…Go see it” ~ Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight
“Les Filles Du Roi Tells a Powerful Story of Canada’s History” ~ Connal McNamara, Vancouver Weekly
“A sumptuous reimagining of our history…It’s thrilling” ~ Colin Thomas, colinthomas.ca
“If any show deserves a standing ovation, this one does. But don’t take my word for it, see it for yourself” ~Emma Rossland, Two Cents & Two Pence
Wanna know more? Check out what Corey Payette and Julie McIsaac have to say about creating Les Filles du Roi:
Les Filles du Roi is performed in three languages, English, French, and Kanien’kéha (Mohawk). Learn more in this great video:
Les Filles du Roi runs from May 15 – 27, 2018 at York Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.
Pulling musical inspiration from Indigenous traditions as well as Broadway hits, this musical is a timely piece that tells the heartbreaking story of the residential schools through the eyes of one Oji-Cree family. Offering a thrilling blend of ancient traditions and contemporary realities, Children of God celebrates resilience and the power of the Indigenous cultural spirit.
Writer/ Director Corey Payette and Assistant Director Julie McIsaac looking over the script. Photo by Brain Chan
The creative team, along with the cast and a whole host of support personnel, have been hard at work getting ready for next weeks opening night performance. Here are some fabulous shots by Brian Chan from the early days of rehearsals.
Costume design for Children of God character Rita. Photo by Brian Chan
Costume designs being passed around. Photo by Brain Chan
Cast and Crew share a laugh during a read through. Photo by Brain Chan
Marshall McMahen (Production Designer), Corey Payetter (Book/Music/Lyrics & Director) and Aaron M. Wells ( Cast- Vincent) discuss Children of God. Photo by Brain Chan
Martin Reisle makes notes. Photo by Brian Chan
Children of God cast and crew all together for the first time. Photo by Brian Chan
Elliot Vaughan (Orchestrator/Viola). Photo by Brian Chan
Kim Harvey (Cast – Joanna/Secretary) during the initial read through. Photo by Brian Chan
Actress Cathy Elliot, who plays Rita in Children of God, wrote a powerful piece about how working on the workshop of this show impacted her life; “It gets a little difficult sometimes to remember that the word “healing” had more power before it became a made-for-tv catchword, or a politician’s promise or a meme. I have difficulty saying it. Its meaning has been worn down, polished thin through constant use. But it is the only word I can use for what I wish to attempt to describe as a monumental event that has had an effect on my life.”
We love this shot of Kim Harvey (The Cultch’s own Youth Program Manager – we are so proud!) toasting the whole team on the first day of rehearsals! Kim plays Joanna in Children of God. A huge cheers to Children of God!
Kim Harvey makes a toast to Children of God cast and crew. Photo by Brian Chan
Children of God runs at the Historic Theatre, May 17-Jun 3. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.