Joseph A. Dandurand, Kwantlen first nations writer debuts family-oriented play, The Hungry Feast Dish, at Chief Sepass Theatre. (Langley Advance Times files)

Langley Fine Arts School students learn Kwantlen culture by bringing stories to the stage

The Hungry Feast Dish by Joseph A. Dandurand runs Feb. 20 and 21 at Chief Sepass Theatre

“When you take something from the earth, you must give something back.”

That’s the message behind Kwantlen First Nations writer and artist Joseph A. Dandurand’s production, The Hungry Feast Dish.

Set in Kwantlen First Nations Village of Squa’lets, Dandurand introduces storytellers who spin a tale about Th’owxiya and a powerful feast dish, which holds many beautiful foods from around the world.

A young mouse, Kw’at’el, decides to steal from Th’owxiya’s feast dish which in turn brings upon her wrath.

Kw’at’el must pay for his theft by bringing her two tasty children or she will eat Kw’at’el’s whole family.

Along the way, Kw’at’el meets Raven, two young bears, and a Sasquatch who help find lessons of greed, respect, understanding and forgiveness.

Written and directed Dandurand, and co-directed by Sue Boucher, the show is suitable for all ages and performed by Langley Fine Arts School’s Drama 11 and 12 class.

Boucher said the production was a two year process that stemmed from a desire to share and understand the culture of their Kwantlen neighbours.

“My journey as a teacher and bringing Indigenous ways of knowing into the classroom brought me to the realization that some students weren’t engaged,” she said. “The reason was me and I knew I had to do more, so we reached out to Kwantlen First Nations and met Joseph A. Dandurand, whose work has been really taking off.”

Dandurand studied theatre at the University of Ottawa, and has had multiple works produced including Shake, Crackers and Soup, No Totem for My Story, Where Two Rivers Meet, and Please Don’t Touch the Indians throughout the 1990s.

His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and Dandurand was the Indigenous Storyteller in Residence at the Vancouver Public Library in 2019.

Dandurand and The Hungry Feast Dish were brought in the school as part of what is called the Art Matters program, where celebrated artists are brought in to talk about why their creative works are important to them.

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Boucher said the opportunity was a great learning process for students that opens the conversation or reconciliation and Indigenous knowledge.

“We have work to do and need to own that. We need to ensure this history of residential schools and the past is taught,” Boucher explained. “The production is just one small step forward to help with a larger shift.”

The production runs evenings on Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21 at Chief Sepass Theatre, 9096 Trattle St, at 7 p.m.

The first hour of the show will consist of the production – with alternate casts for each performance – and the second half will feature storytelling by Dandurand.

The Hungry Feast Dish is overseen by the Simon Fraser University Department of Education and supported by BC Government Art Starts Grant.

Tickets and more information is available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

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