Last time I went to see a play, it was Pippin in New York City.
Earlier this week, I saw the Theatre Projects Manitoba play Reservations, a play by Steven Ratzlaff that addresses the misunderstandings between First Nations people and white people in Canada. The play was two hours, but it was split into two shorter stories. One was about an Albertan Mennonite farmer’s decision to give $3 million worth of land back to the Siksika Nation, and the other acted out a foster-parent couple struggling to meet eye-to-eye with the Aboriginal CFS agency.
I thought the play brought forward critical Canadian issues with creative intention, but I don’t think a theatrical play is the most convincing way to reach people about Canadian First Nations’ issues.
Sure, it was an original way to try to help people learn about both perspectives ongoing indigenous issues across Canada, but a play is meant to entertain. People pay to come to be excited and enlightened. To do that, a play needs its story to have a plot — a rising action, a climax, and a resolution. Instead, I watched a husband and wife argue for an hour — in one scene. The acting was professional and convincing, but I didn’t connect to the characters because their lines were clogged up in trying-to-sound-smart jargon that didn’t actually sound how people actually talk.
A play is meant to be a creative way to show rather than tell. Watching two stories — each with abrupt in-the-middle-of-the-conflict endings — did not get the point across because I got bored before I cared about what happened in the end. That is not to say I don’t care about indigenous issues, I think they are completely relevant and more people need to take the time to learn and understand the cultural differences within our country. But play-wise, there was no change in scenery, and the argument in the second story dragged on.
Plays I’ve seen in the past are usually lighthearted and fluffy. Pippin is about a boy who seeks life advice from his circus friends. One time I even starred in an Austin Powers knock-off play called McLiver. So Reservations was a political twist from what I’ve seen before. I’ve studied similar issues that focus on conflict and culture in university, so I’ve participated in discussions like this before, and I’m happy that people are making the effort to bring forward the cultural issues like the ones Reservations addresses. Especially in an artistic way. I just think there are better ways to engage people in the discussion than a play that lacks a dynamic plot.