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).
RAVE REVIEWS: Children of God is the show to see this year!
The cast of Children of God | Photo credit: Emily Cooper | Production design by Marshall McMahen and lighting design by Jeff Harrison
If you haven’t yet seen Urban Ink’sChildren of God, make sure you book your tickets right away. Reviews are pouring in, and everyone agrees; this is an important work that is not to be missed!
“If you see one work of theatre this year, make it this one” – Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail
“A beautiful and very powerful moment of triumphant solidarity between the stage and audience…the kind of reconciliation this country desperately needs but hasn’t yet earned”- Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Sun
“This is a brave work, and a starting point for important conversations …See it.” – Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight
“I don’t remember the last time I saw a more incredible, moving, beautiful or powerful theatrical production” – Emme Rogers, Emmerogers.ca
“[Children of God] lifts us beyond despair with a surprise ending that inspires a communal response. If that sounds vague, it’s meant to be. See it for yourself.” – Paul Durras, Vancouver Plays
“If you call yourself a Canadian then you have a duty to see this dark but illuminating work”- Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
“It was a healing, cathartic, and powerful moment that I won’t soon forget.” – Tessa Perkins Deneault, tessaperkins.ca
“It is obvious to me that this show was created and presented in a spirit of fierce compassion and hope, as is evidenced in the writing, the direction, and the provision of emotional support workers and a talkback. As such, this show is a salve. This is the kind of healing that we need and must decidedly work to carry forth.” – Sarah Thompson, Sad Mag
Children of God runs at the York Theatre, May 17-Jun 3. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.
May 19th is a very special night for The Cultch. It is our immense honor and privilege to present Children of God in collaboration with Urban Ink Productions, National Arts Centre English Theatre, and Raven Theatre! After two amazingly received preview presentations (May 17-18) it is finally time to present this timely and urgent musical to the world.
The cast of Children of God | Photo credit: Emily Cooper
In this powerful musical, the children of an Oji-Cree family, Tommy and Julia are sent to a residential school in Northern Ontario. Children of God is a story of redemption: for their mother Rita, who was never let past the school’s gate, and her kids, who never knew she came.
Brother and sister, Tommy (Herbie Barnes) and Julia (Cheyenne Scott) in Children of God. Photo by Emily Cooper
It may seem like dark subject matter for a musical, but as Writer/Director Corey Payette says in The Georgia Straight, “How I understand musicals to work best is they express emotions that are beyond words, so when characters can no longer speak, they sing. This felt like a perfect fit.” In fact, when you hear Corey speak about it, the more and more a musical seems like the clear choice to start a conversation about residential schools. “What I’ve been taught from the elders I’ve worked with” Corey says in an interview with The Vancouver Sun, “is that you cannot tell a story without that story having a song. You cannot sing a song without that song having a dance. And you cannot dance without that dance telling a story. So for me, the musical form really lends itself to indigenous performance.”
Watch this video with Corey Payette as he describes the story of Children of God.
Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history. According to Reconciliation Canada, over the course of roughly 130 years, over 150, 000 children were forcefully removed from their family homes and taken to residential schools to be re-educated and converted. Today, it is estimated that there are over 80,000 residential school survivors living in Canada. This isn’t ancient history, this is our current reality; the last residential school didn’t close it’s doors until 1996.
“Children of God demonstrates the intergeneration impact of a cultural genocide,” says Payette. “It shows how this chapter in Canadian history changed the course of lives. We hope that it will help people understand what happened. We hope that people will enter the theatre one way and leave it changed” states Corey in an interview with BeatRoute Magazine. As Colin Thomas says in his blog, Fresh Sheet,“As Canadians, all of us are connected in some way to the legacy of residential schools. Corey Payette’s new musical, Children of God, which addresses that legacy… may be one of the most important openings we’ve seen in years.”
Cast of Children of God. Photo by Emily Cooper
Children of God may have dark and triggering subject matter, but it offers moments of hope, and it is a true celebration of the strength of our indigenous peoples.“When I spent the years meeting with survivors and their families talking about the story I wanted to tell, the thing that I wasn’t prepared for and that I didn’t fully understand was the strength it took for survivors toforgive” says Corey in a Q&A with Artslandia. “I felt those conversations changed the direction of the show to be about celebrating the strength of Indigenous peoples to overcome this tragic part of our history, and this strength is not widely reported in the media; it’s powerful and a kind of resilience that is overwhelming to imagine.”
The response we have been getting at our previews has been overwhelming. This is a powerful piece of theatre. Here is what one audience member had to say: “Last night, Brent and I went to Children of God. I was astounded by the message, the play, the actors, the lyrics, the music and the incredible way it was all combined so completely. Corey Payette and the team did an amazing job. It was so thought provoking, disturbing, shocking, and beautiful , and I left the theatre full of emotion, guilt, strength, and sadness from the resonating messages. We need to get PM Trudeau in to see it on Friday when he is in Vancouver!”
Watch this great video with Corey Payette (Meet the Creator) describing the journey of creating Children of God.
If you want to know more about Children of God you can listen to Corey Payette and Kim Harvey on Roundhouse Radio speaking with Kirk LaPointe. And dont miss this great interview with Corey Payette on The Early Edition with Rick Cluff (interview starts at 2:39:57).
Children of God runs at the York Theatre, May 17-Jun 3. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.
Contains swearing, sexual content, and haze.
Due to the triggering content of the performance, Emotional Support Workers will be available to provide support to audience members who may require it.
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.