“Us and Them” at the Cultch

imageRedwire sits down with first nations actors Brandy McCullum and Sundown Stieger to talk about their performance in the interactive theatre play ‘Us and Them’. They tell us how they can relate to their characters in the play, as well as many other First Nations people living in concrete jungles.

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Redwire media TV presents “Us and Them” forum theatre preview by Cheyanna Kootenhayoo, Dene


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  Us and Them is a forum theatre piece based on the notion that “there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, there is only us”. The latest production from Headline Theatres is a play that despite grounding itself in a social justice mindset, avoids tackling wider global issues, and instead asserts that the heart of human conflict lies at an interpersonal level.

    Us and Them features Brandy McCallum, a Cree/Blackfoot/Metis youth. Born in Saskatchewan and raised in Nelson, she now calls Vancouver home and is an emerging actress in the locale. Also featured in the cast is Sundown Steiger a truly enigmatic and inspiring individual who has managed to make the transition from a life on the street to acting in socially engaging theatre. Both of their characters resonate with the experience of being an Aboriginal youth in an urban setting: striving to establish oneself while carrying the legacy of colonization, which is difficult for those who have not educated themselves on the history of this land to understand.

    Expect the first part of the play to be an intense web of interactions between characters, most of whom represent marginalized members of society. The situations that arise make anyone with a sense of compassion and justice ache as they observe the narrative take on the subject of discrimination and how it creates struggles for those it perpetrates. The second half of the play opens up the room for dialogue in a style known as “forum theatre”, originally conceived in Brazil to empower oppressed members of society, mostly Indigenous. For those who don’t know forum theatre, don’t let the interactive component scare you away! Participation is voluntary and the content is so engaging in its fearless portrayal of stigmatization, something First Nations people know all too well, that even wallflowers might be surprised by a willingness to contribute or even step on stage!

    One of the most enriching aspects of this kind of theatre is the opportunity to participate or observe a dialogue where many diverse ideas are expressed. However, arts director David Diamond, while bringing up his own insightful ideas, often can’t seem to resist taking over the floor. It’s important to acknowledge the problematic nature of this peculiar situation when taking into account the social circumstances and vision that gave birth to forum theatre. For a man like David Diamond who is undeniably at the top of the social food chain, it is quite bold to make sweeping statements such as “There is no us and them, there is only us.” When you look at the Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere, an important text that heavily influenced social movements such as Forum Theatre and the Theatre of the Oppressed, it contradicts this statement. In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed Friere explores the end of oppression beginning with acknowledging the relationship between colonizers and the colonized, not glazing over it. Still the true meat of the play, looking past social stigmas, surpasses the all-too-familiar soapbox persona. I would instead encourage youth to get out there and participate! Actively speak your mind, challenge what you feel needs to be challenged, since that is keeping true to the original spirit of forum theatre. All the while supporting our talented youth who are engaging in important community dialogues and carving out a name for themselves.

Chandra Melting Tallow, Siksika
Visual Design Coordinator
Redwire Native Youth Media
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Here’s some links for more info and a performance schedule

Headline Theatre

The Cultch

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