THUNDER BAY, ON - February 1, 2010 - The current production at Magnus at first is a bit of an enigma, but yes I get it. Drew Hayden Taylor is a “blue eyed” Indian from the Ojibway First Nation of Curve Lake in Ontario. He is an accomplished playwright with many works to his name. Some such as "IN A WORLD CREATED BY A DRUNKEN GOD”, is memorable, original works which portray the world from an aboriginal perspective.
While the play is focused on the issue of the native stereotype, at the end of the show I asked myself what we can take away from this excellent production. In every respect Taylor has moved at least a little distance away from writing solely about aboriginal issues. A small portion of humanity captured in this play applies to us all. Writer John Raulston Saul spoke about the conflict of European values, particularly a hierarchal class society with a top down management system. He was on a speaking tour promoting “A Métis Nation”, and that book makes a convincing case that the uniqueness of many aspects of Canadian culture is due to the influence of Native values, particularly in the time before confederation. He also mentions that since that time our record of accord with native peoples could use some improvement.
Stereotypes evolve from hierarchal thinking; they allow us to put people in boxes that classify them as Tonto or Indian Joe or even Pocahontas. Placing putting people in boxes unfairly implies a whole lot of other personal attributes to them as well. So a stereotype implies a lot of assumptions about a person you don’t even know. Most of those attributes cannot be complimentary for it is important for our European blood to maintain the hierarchal order. The play could have been written about Japanese war internee’s or even Chinese workers who were required to pay a head tax and worked just as well.
So what was it I was able to take home from the play? The answer is simple, a better understanding of the situation makes a good step forward to bettering relations with Canada’s Aboriginals just as Raulston Saul describes in his book “The Métis Nation”.
Taylor is a writer and a humourist, and the play moves along nicely. The actors Gordon Patrick White, Gilbert J. Anderson, Simon Moccasin, Renalta Arluk, Chris Cound, Ira Johnson are all worthy of the professional stage. I especially liked the transformation of the characters from the old stereotypes in the first act, to the new modern stereotypes that the people created for themselves in the second act. The surprise that the Dead White Writer has somehow resurrected himself and can now be blamed for the unhappiness of the characters is not surprising. The play left me thinking it of other titles for the show. One might be “The Revenge of the Dead White Writer” and another might be “Be Careful What You Wish For”.
One of the European values that flow through our veins is the appreciation of literature. In today’s society there are not many people who live to read. Life is just that busy, but Drew Hayden Taylor has found the play is an excellent medium to get his message across. Story telling is the ancient medium for our aboriginal peoples, and I think this play will connect with many people in Thunder Bay. The show runs until February 13th 2010, be sure to take it in.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com
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