Do not miss your chance to check out Children of God at the Segal Centre, and do not forget to bring tissues and be ready to watch a tragic masterpiece. (Courtesy Leslie Schachter, Urban Ink)
Word to the wise: Don’t go see the musical Children of God unless you’re prepared to cry. And if you don’t cry, you might want to ask yourself why.
Currently showing at the Segal Centre until Sunday, Children of God pulls no punches.
Want to know what residential school was really like? We all know it wasn’t pretty for so many of our people who attended, but seeing it re-enacted, with characters you care for, complete with haunting music and stellar acting; and you have one hell of a ride.
Hang on, it hurts in many places.
And if you’re mad at me for writing hell in an article and you’re Onkwehón:we (which we’ve heard before, sadly), that is a clear example of what residential school did to our people.
Who cares? Our people are more important than any religion, especially the Catholic Church and what it did to us.
Tommy (Dylan Chiblow) is a real treat to watch, an excellent actor, and his singing voice is perfect for the role. Small knock: Tough to buy him as a father of two, but really easy sell as a school kid in residential.
But that’s the only knock of the whole production, and it is tiny.
Everything else is (insert whatever superlative you can think of here)! It was that good. We can’t even nail down any adjectives that would cover how my wife and I felt about the whole thing, created by Oji-Cree phenom Corey Payette, who wears almost all of the hats in this production.
Cry? Of course. Weep? For sure. Bawl? Been there, done that.
It was especially tough sitting in the front row where the actors could have, if they wanted to, reached out a little more and pulled us into their world.
It was really cool to see Michelle St. John, the strong female presence those of us old enough to remember, from CBC’s Where the Spirit Lives so many years ago.
Can her character Tina be crazy at times? For sure. Dramatic? Yep. But we see our own women in her, with the love and devotion, caring and bravery.
Flawed? Of course, because we all are. But above all else she loves her boy Tommy, and tries to connect in ways we can relate to.
What Children of God does is it forces you to watch something that really happened. Sure, Payette’s inspiration was taken from a cast of residential school survivors, but that’s what makes it so beautiful.
Because the story of residential school isn’t just one or even 1,000 stories. It’s the story of everyone who suffered, of the ones who wouldn’t listen, of the horrible abuse our people endured and still came home.
And it’s the story of those who died trying.
It’s a multi-faceted one that draws its strength from everyone, including the nuns and the priests, because they play the perfect villain in this sordid tale, but the difference is these actors can go home afterwards.
So many of our people never could.
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Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.