Douglas College production of The Rez Sisters a risky venture

Angie Hennig starts in The Rez Sisters, showing Friday and Saturday at Douglas College. - Contributed
Angie Hennig starts in The Rez Sisters, showing Friday and Saturday at Douglas College.
— image credit: Contributed

Looking for a little enlightenment in your entertainment?

How about possible controversy? If this sounds intriguing, check out The Rez Sisters, which runs tonight (Friday, Nov. 16) and Saturday at Douglas College.

Written by Cree playwright Tomson Highway, The Rez Sisters is about seven women, each wrestling with personal demons, on a native reserve in Ontario, who dream of attending (and winning) “The Biggest Bingo in the World.”

It is of one of the most famous and influential First Nations plays in Canada.

Douglas is putting on the play using a cast of almost exclusively non-aboriginal actors. This is where the “possible controversy” comes in.

First performed 1986, The Rez Sisters opened to critical acclaim and sold-out houses. But since then it has rarely been staged, notes Deborah Neville, director, because many theatres are afraid to take the risk of casting non-aboriginal actors in aboriginal roles.

Two of the actors and the set and costume designer in the Douglas College production have some aboriginal lineage, but otherwise, Neville had no qualms using a colour-blind cast.

“I watched an interview with Tomson Highway where he was encouraging non-aboriginal theatre companies to ‘get on it, put the play up, do it.’ For me, that was my way in. It was permission.”

• The Rez Sisters is at 7:30 on both nights, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. It’s staged at Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College, 700 Royal Ave., New Westminster. Tickets ($8-$12) are available through the Massey Theatre box office, 604-521-5050.

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