As the Classic Theatre Festival gears up for its expanded 7th summer season in Perth, the Festival is seeking applications from Indigenous performers interested in taking part in the Festival’s youth theatre training program. This is a paid summer position, and participants must be between 14 and 25 years of age. No prior theatre experience is required as this is a training program.
As part of its many tourism offerings, the Festival has engaged thousands of people since 2014 with its street-level theatre under the Perth through the Ages banner, bringing to life both famous and lesser-known characters and stories from Perth’s fabled heritage history. Last year’s story, The Maid and the Merchant, featured a Nancy Drew-inspired protagonist exploring the less than savoury history of her family’s past, while the Lonely Ghosts Walk took on the story of Daniel Daverne, who many feel was wrongly impugned for malfeasance.
This summer, as Perth celebrates its 200th anniversary, the Perth through the Ages tour (which runs Wednesday to Sunday at 11 am from June 22 to August 28), will focus on the interaction of newly arrived European settlers with the Algonquin people, who had been living on the land for a good 8,000 years and who offered their expertise and leadership in helping colonists to get established.
“There is a widespread misperception that the European settlers who started the military settlement here found nothing but an empty, forbidding wilderness. That erases the history, culture, language and spiritual practices of a people who have lived here harmoniously for millennia,” explains Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “A key part of righting some of the many wrongs that were subsequently committed against Indigenous peoples is recovering and celebrating their history, their resilience, and their contemporary and historic contributions.”
Smith points out that the purpose of the 2016 summer theatrical historic walking tour is not to disparage those of European heritage, but rather to contribute to a balancing view that tries to address the whole of the area’s history. It’s an approach definitely in keeping with recent trends that seek to acknowledge the traditional territories of Indigenous people on which most of us now live. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called on all Canadian communities to endorse and implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), whose landmark hearings and 2015 report documented the abusive Residential School system. Among its 98 recommendations was a call “in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration” that would “integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.”
At a series of recent township council meetings, an ad hoc group of Indigenous people and settlers has presented a resolution noting that while Perth was officially founded in 1816 as a military settlement, there was no consultation with the Algonquin, as was required by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara in 1764, both of which stipulated that any such settlements needed to be consented to by the land’s original occupants.
“We love theatre because through storytelling, and the exploration of human relationships, we can all learn something about ourselves and our place in the world,” says Smith. “Visitors to the theatrical walking tours have really become engrossed in Perth’s past, and are always seeking to learn more. When people gain an enhanced understanding of where they live, they develop stronger bonds to their community and, most importantly, their neighbours. The same applies to tourists who tend to become repeat visitors when they have a meaningful connection to the town.”
This year’s Perth through the Ages tour is being produced with the support of the Perth & District Community Foundation, and the Crabtree Foundation, and in partnership with Matheson House Museum.
Interested Indigenous youth are encouraged to submit an application letter to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15 or to call (613) 264-8088.