When you’re in conversation with someone, how do you choose the words you use?
An annual production returning to the stage in Port Alberni this week hopes people will leave the auditorium thinking just that.
Teresa Drew and the Port Alberni Friendship Center are bringing Divided We Fall to the ADSS Auditorium for some shows on Thursday, Feb. 14 and the Capitol Theatre on Friday, Feb. 15.
“Words are really important,” says Drew, interim manager at ?iihmisuk t’aatn’a?is Treasure Our Young Ones Daycare, and also leader for STAGES Youth Theatre at the Capitol Theatre. “I’ve always thought of them as magic. You can incite a riot with words. You can tell someone you love them with words. It’s really important the words that we say.”
Words can carry unintended meaning as well. “We can be racist and not know it,” Drew said. Divided We Fall intends to show people what casual racism is, and how to move away from it.
Phrases such as “long time no see,” “peanut gallery,” “gyp” or even “hip hip hooray” are used often, but many don’t realize their origins are based on racist slang: mocking Chinese workers speaking in broken English; the cheapest seating in theatres, where patrons were usually minorities; a reference to gypsies—a shortened word meaning ‘Egyptians’; and a phrase first used by shepherds in Germany and later, by those searching out Jewish people during the Holocaust.
This is the fourth year that Drew has presented Divided We Fall. She and Naomi Boutwell created the first show as a series of monologues and they were produced as live shows. The next one was a four-part mini-series aired on Shaw TV.
Divided We Fall is a unique production of stories gathered from Port Alberni and northern B.C. and using a local cast. It is not a memorization show: cast members read stories written on cards, in monologue style.
“Also included are stories about when people as children first understood what racism is, monologues about actual racist incidents that have happened in our town, and helpful ideas on how to redirect your thinking and actions the next time you encounter racism either toward yourself or towards others,” says Drew.
The cast will be diverse: someone from high school, someone just out of high school, three First Nations people including an elder, different nationalities and genders. “I like diversity. I want a range of people on stage,” she says.
The show will end with a scene depicting words that are said, a reaction to the words and an example of how to react to those words. “I’m really excited to bring this up again for the fourth year. My biggest hope is that people walk away with questions.”
Cast members will be canvassing areas of town early in the week, giving away tickets and letting people know about the show.
Divided We Fall will be presented to high school students in two shows at Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 14. A show for the general public will be held at 7:30 p.m. on the same day, also at the ADSS Auditorium (4000 Roger St.). Another show for the public will be held Friday, Feb. 15, also at 7:30 p.m., at the Capitol Theatre (4904 Argyle St.) Doors open both days at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Drew is interested in feedback from people who attend the show, and hopes to have a survey available for people to fill out. She would one day like to take the show on the road to other small towns around B.C.