The mostly young actors and actresses of Welcome Home? — Flying Arrow Productions’ Canada 150 Community Theatre Project — put on one heck of a performance at the Railway Museum on Saturday, February 11.
The phrase “community theatre project” left me wondering what to expect. Would the play be charmingly inept and amateurish? Would the dialogue be painful? How would it tell real stories? Would it be funny or tragic? I was swiftly disabused of my quiet misapprehensions.
The play actually begins in the waiting room of the Railway Museum when Carolyn Johnston introduces herself as Minnie the Tour Guide and then takes the audience, which was limited to about 40 people because of the nature of the venue, on the beginning of a tour of the exhibits. It gets interesting after a few minutes when, if you suspend your disbelief in time travel, two young girls manage to jump back in time and meet arch-capitalist and CPR Chairman Donald Smith, cunningly played by Andy Parkin.
The use of the Railway Museum, its exhibits and the CPR’s well-known history as the agency by which hundreds of thousands of immigrants came to Canada was an inspired move as it allows the men, women, boys and girls of the cast to tell their sometimes dark but ultimately hopeful stories. There are also light moments and some truly local takes on immigration.
A Director’s Note from Anita Hallewas that was published in the program describes the play’s genesis:
“Welome Home? began as a spark after reading a survey in the Revelstoke Review that stated 51% of locals did not want a newly sponsored Syrian family to come to Revelstoke. As a new immigrant to Canada (and the child of a refugee) who was welcomed so warmly just nine years ago, this didn’t seem like the expected response from that same town. But the conversation had been started and it seemed like a great opportunity to explore, through theatre, how and why Revelstoke was welcoming towards newcomers both in the past and the present.”
Flying Arrow Productions explored these themes through a series of workshops last autumn.
“Each conversation, discussion, concern or opinion triggered the next workshop until we had collected enough information to devise a play… and by the time we held auditions we had attracted a team of 22 performers who were eager… to perform the play, Welcome Home?.
“The piece is still ‘a work in progress’ and we hope for more feedback and discussion to add more voices nd opinions to make this play a truly Revelstoke product…”
Although only two performances were scheduled — both on Saturday — Anita said afterwards that more performances will be scheduled this spring and summer.
I thought Welcome Home? was an inspired performance and speaks to the heart, particularly young hearts, in language that is clear and direct. I hope everyone in Revelstoke will get to see it.
In the meantime here are some photos that I hope will inspire you to share — or even just think about — your own immigrant’s tale: