Photographer Jessica Hallenbeck (right) shows Mason Rankin techniques for photographing archival material as they interview Virginia Gilbert (left).

Photographer Jessica Hallenbeck (right) shows Mason Rankin techniques for photographing archival material as they interview Virginia Gilbert (left).

Youth and elders share history in play and film

A play and a film developed by lakecity youth involved in the Squaw Hall Project will be presented at the Gibraltar Room on Tuesday, March 22, starting at 7:30 p.m.

A play and a film developed by lakecity youth involved in the Squaw Hall Project will be presented at the Gibraltar Room on Tuesday, March 22, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Following the premiere at the Gibraltar Room the troupe will take the film and play on a brief tour to nearby First Nations communities during the week of March 23 to 26, says project media representative Cathy McDonald. 

The elders featured  in the film are Cecilia De Rose, Doreen Haines, Lloyd and Selena Myers, George Keener, Roger William, Virginia Gilbert, Roberta (Birdie) Gilbert, Ralph Phillips, Joan Gentles and Ken Johnson.

The youth performers are Raeanne Elkins, Taylor Myers, Larissa Myers and Charles Cecil together with adults Gary Stieman and Juanita Street.  Other youth who contributed to the earlier version of the play are Chantuu Stump, Bobby Rankin, Mason Rankin and Taylor Salanski.

The film and play originate in Williams Lake, the result of the Squaw Hall Project, that at intervals over the past year has provided youth with training in performance, writing and media skills.

“There have been some obstacles but it’s been very rewarding witnessing the connection between the youth and the elders and hearing the stories,” says co-producer Rosemary Georgeson. “The really exciting part has been watching the youth develop their creative roles inside of this project.”

Georgeson is the aboriginal community director for urban ink Productions of Vancouver which is co-producing with Twin Fish Theatre Collective of Nelson.

The film Squaw Hall: A Community Remembers captures the memories of Secwepemc and Tsilhqot’in elders of being young and growing up in the Cariboo Chilcotin. 

With a background of beautiful archival images, the elders speak powerfully to their youthful interviewers, with words of wisdom directed to all First Nations youth of today, McDonald says.

“The message from the elders to the youth is to value who they are and where they have come from,” says Sage Birchwater, who assisted the youth with the interviews for the documentary.  Birchwater also sits on the community advisory committee for the project.

The play Damned If You Do; What If You Don’t? is a humourous and powerful story about two teenagers living in Williams Lake today, who cope with the challenges their family faces as well as the lure of alcohol and  peer pressure.

This original  play was written by the youthful performers under the guidance and mentorship of playwright and former Williams Lake resident, Nicola Harwood, together with Bessie Wapp, both from Twin Fish. 

In addition to Harwood, Wapp and Georgeson, the theatre artists who supported the project are Diane Roberts, Mutya Mucatumpag and Emilie Monnet. 

Video training was provided by Helen Haig Brown and Terry Haines. Recent elder interviews were organized by Birchwater, and conducted by Raeanne Elkins and Mason Rankin. The film Squaw Hall: A Community Remembers was edited by Jessica Hallenbeck.

McDonald says the Squaw Hall project enjoys strong community support through its advisory committee, and its partners the Community Arts Council of Williams Lake, the Canadian Mental Health Association- Cariboo Chilcotin Branch, the Noopa/ Boys and Girls Club and the Child Development Centre. Financial support was provided by the Rotary Club of Williams Lake, Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, First Peoples Heritage Language and Culture Council, the Vancouver Foundation, the Province of BC, Telus and 2010 Legacies Now. Admission is by donation.