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Nain theatre group performs compelling original play

The boots worn by the women during their time onstage all had the same braid on the top of the boots so the audience would recognize it was the same women being portrayed on stage.
The boots worn by the women during their time onstage all had the same braid on the top of the boots so the audience would recognize it was the same women being portrayed on stage.

A newly formed adult theatre group in Nain recently presented a powerful play that they wrote, produced and performed.

The women in the We Are Strong (Songujovugut) theatre troupe presented “Lost and Found” at Jens Haven Memorial Primary School on May 24.

Sponsored by Memorial University and the Nunatsiavut Government’s Tradition and Transition project, the play is about a woman from Nain named Annie and her struggles as she loses her language, culture, hunting ground and identity.

The ten women in the play take on the role of Annie at various stages in her life and show how, with support and guidance, it is possible to move forward and regain what was lost.

Jill Jablonski is a student at Memorial University and is currently doing her co-op work term with the Labrador Creative Arts Festival in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Founded by Tim Borlase over four decades ago, the festival is touted as the country’s longest-running children’s festival.

Jablonski attended the play in Nain and helped the actresses during their rehearsals.

“Annie was an Inuit woman who was taken away from her parents and put into an abusive situation. She loses her culture and she tries to find it again,” Jablonski said during a recent phone interview.

One of the most powerful scenes in the play was when Annie was being taken away from her parents, Jablonski said.

“The actress who was playing Annie at that moment was also doing Inuit throat singing. It was so powerful. Then there was a scream at the end when her singing stopped.”

Borlase helped the aspiring actresses “every step of the way,” Jablonski said.

A well known and respected educator, Borlase specializes in the needs of native and isolated youth in communities across Labrador. He was honoured with the Order of Canada in 2016 for his contribution to education, music, arts and drama.

In a circle, Songujovugut (We Are Strong) an adult theatre group in Nain works on a play with Labrador Creative Arts Festival founder Ted Borlase. The women developed the play portraying their strength in facing and conquering adversity

Over the next three years, Borlase will be visiting each Nunatsiavut community helping residents establish adult theatre troupes.

Similar to the troupe now up and running in Nain, he said, the other troupes will also be an extension of the Labrador Creative Arts Festival.

People in these communities have experience writing plays, he said, as former festival participants.

The goal now is to help them continue to express themselves artistically as adults.

The initiative worked well in Nain, Borlase said when contacted by phone.

The idea of “Lost and Found” came out of negative publicity the community has received with regards to care for foster children.

The women wanted to explore some of the reasons why there are children being fostered, Borlase said.

“They looked at some of the things that have happed to women in Nain over the period of their lives... We identified that it was the one person (being portrayed by the different actresses) by the skin boots they were wearing. They all had the same braid on the top of their skin boots so you would understand it was the same person.”

In addition to Annie, he said, there was one other character – Annie’s grandmother – who would speak to her in dreams.

“The grandmother was a very positive figure in the girl’s life,” Borlase said.

Borlase described the play as heartfelt and one that provides positive solutions to  problems.

“I was there to help get them going, to facilitate the piece that they wanted to write. The people involved wrote their own scene and I helped them form it into a play.... I spent three weeks there and when I left they were talking about their next project and that was really a good sign,” he said.

“Lost and Found” leaves the message that people can resolve what has happened to them in the past and can move forward, he said.

Borlase said mental health is one of the main issues brought out in the play.

He believes the play could be modified and performed at various mental health conferences or other similar events.

“The play was beyond my expectations. I didn’t know these people would want to take on this topic with such passion... it’s not an easy thing to talk about but they did an admirable job exploring why things are the way they are and offering solutions,” Borlase said.

The play’s local director Caroline Nochasak also acted in the play.

The 18-year-old has agreed to continue to keep the theatre troupe active.

“Caroline is a young woman who recognizes the power of theatre,” Borlase said.

When contacted by phone Nochasak said she is eager to start up more meetings of the theatre troupe as a means of telling more stories.

“It’s a great way to express ourselves and there is a lot of interest in that,” she said.

Sixteen-year-old actress Nancy Nochasak said what she likes best about being part of the theatre troupe is working with the women in the community that she otherwise wouldn't be talking to.

“They made the whole experience fun and it made me want to do more of this with these women. Just going through the writing process, seeing which parts fit best and putting all together was great, too. I really hope we get together again soon,” she said.

danette@nl.rogers.com

 

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