New Stratford Festival work 1939 led by Indigenous artists soon available to stream online

Thursday, March 9th, 2023 12:27pm


Image Caption

Richard Comeau (centre) as Joseph Summers with (from left) Tara Sky as Beth Summers, John Wamsley as Jean Delorme, Kathleen MacLean as Susan Blackbird and Wahsontí:io Kirby as Evelyne Rice in 1939.


The Stratford Festival’s filmed performance of 1939 will debut for streaming worldwide on Monday, March 13. It was written by Jani Lauzon (Métis) and Kaitlyn Riordan. It was directed for the stage by Lauzon and for the screen by Nicholas Shields.

1939 is led by five Indigenous actors—Richard Comeau, Wahsontí:io Kirby, Kathleen MacLean, Tara Sky and John Wamsley. It takes audiences to a fictional residential school in northern Ontario where, anticipating a visit by King George VI, an English teacher enlists her students in a production of All’s Well That Ends Well.

But the teacher’s rigid ideas of how Shakespeare should be performed are challenged as her Indigenous students start finding parallels between themselves and the characters in the play. Far from letting themselves be defined by colonial expectations, the children set out to make Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy their own.

“Although this is not the first play that has been written about the incredible resilience of residential school survivors, what differs now,” said Lauzon, “is that organizations like Stratford are lending support and curious audiences are coming to witness and listen.”

A press statement says production of 1939 had been guided by Indigenous Elders, survivors and ceremony throughout.

1939 joins a collection of Indigenous works curated from across the country and made available to teachers and students through Classroom Connect, launched in late 2022 on the Stratford Festival’s streaming platform, Stratfest@Home.

Other works in the collection include Th'owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish (Axis Theatre), Kwi'ah: The Girl Who Heals (Axis Theatre), Florent Vollant: I Dream in Innu (National Film Board of Canada) and The War Being Waged (Prairie Theatre Exchange).

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