On Tuesday evening, us first-year Creative Communications students went to Reservations, a play written by Steven Ratzlaff. The play was about different issues and concerns relating to Aboriginal culture. The play discussed important issues, and I thought that the writer came up with creative ways to talk about the subject.
I used to go to a lot of plays in high school, and I’m by no means really knowledgeable in writing plays or how much they need to follow traditional story telling methods (you know, the beginning, the rising action, etc.), but I was a bit confused as to why the play was split into two different plays, and lacked that of a traditional beginning, middle, and end. I thought both parts of the play raised really important discussions, but I think the writer could have focused on one story. There was so much more I wanted to know in each play about the characters and what was going to happen. But, I left wanting to know more about how things turned out for each of the characters in the play…and maybe that was the desired effect. If so, kudos!
The first part was about a father and daughter having a disagreement about whom the father should give his land to. (The father is a farmer). The play is about how the land originally belonged to people of the Siksika Nation. The father wants to give back the land to its original owners, but his daughter cannot empathize with this, as it means she does not inherit the land and profits.
I thought the dialogue between the father and daughter was very believable and convincing. I thought that the writer did a good job of displaying an argument between parent and child, while touching on an issue that needs to be talked about. The writer added in desperation of the daughter character, and how her not inheriting the land would affect her. The daughter character works as an actor, and explains how she needs the money, and accuses her dad of taking on a task just to feel better about himself and that he’s just trying to be a hero. The play touched on (or I thought it touched on) how people can feel a sense of entitlement to things that aren’t their own, and what selfishness and arrogance can look like. I thought it touched on how some people are realizing they can help to change things, and how some people are still not seeing the point. The father character was trying to fix past wrongs, and give the land back to its original owners, and the daughter just couldn’t understand his reasonings. This part of the play really addressed the issues of land ownership in an understandable way.
The second act of the play, I enjoyed for the most part. The second part was about how a couple have Aboriginal children from CFS living with them. They love their children as if they are their own, but the mother is struggling with the CFS worker and the policies that they enforce. The mother believes that the children should not have to make regular scheduled visits to their reserves to visit their biological families or engage in their culture. The CFS worker explains that it’s important for the children to stay in touch with their culture and heritage, so that they do not lose themselves, and so that they understand who they are and what their culture means – so that they can be proud of it.
The whole play was very engaging, but I got lost a bit when there was a lecture scene at the end. The scene was set up exactly like a lecture theatre, and the dialogue was presented exactly like a lecture. For a minute, I thought I might have messed up and gone to the wrong location, and was at University of Manitoba listening to a professor talk all along.
Which – hey – means the acting was good! I thought the first half of the play was so good, and I also thought the second act was really great too – until it almost seemed like the writer just wanted to pack a bunch of information into the last half hour. (Also, major credits to the actress performing the lecture scene…it would have taken me years to remember all of those lines).
Which, honestly, I felt informed, but I feel like it could have been achieved in a more theatrical way. Up until this point (the lecture scene), the play did such a great job of addressing issues without sounding like a textbook, or lecture for that matter. The last part just lost me a bit. I think the scene was needed, but I think it could have been more effective to do in less than 20 minutes (or however long that scene actually was).
Overall, the actors all did a great job in my opinion. Even though the lecture scene was long, the last few lines between the two female characters were so powerful. The dialogue was very real throughout the play. I also enjoyed how the play kept the set design simple and effective.
So, ultimately, my only complaint is that there were a few scenes I think that could have been cut, or shortened (the very beginning with characters standing behind screens with projected images, I didn’t really understand), but I mean, if we understood every creative element put into the play, no one would be talking about it, right?
I think its good to have that mystery, and still be able to get a point across. I left feeling educated. The beer, crackers with hummus and veggies at the end of the show was a bonus too. (Seriously, my favorite snack…how did they know).
Ultimately, just go see the play for yourself. I thought it was worth it.