Writer works with Six Nations woman to spotlight reproduction

While debate swirls in the news about the rights of indigenous children and forced sterilization, it is important to take back stories and tell them in a way that reflects perseverance.

Enter SPAWN, a reimagining of a traditional story written by Coast Salish playwright Cheyenne Scott, happening this week at the Factory Theatre in Toronto where Six Nations producer Ashley Bomberry is working as stage manager.

SPAWN has been lauded in reviews for its sweetness and sensitivity but the story runs deeper than the affability its actors: Samantha Brown and Dillan Meighan-Chiblow (playing newly expecting parents Theresa and Mikey), Herbie Barnes (businessman, Travis) and Cathy Elliott (grandmother, chief).

“I needed a catalyst to look forward to the next generation,” says Scott about the cycle of life, “there’s no going back but you can achieve again by going forward … a new baby is something that can propel each family member to come back together again.”

SPAWN places a modern family drama in relationship with the Pacific Ocean, an entity greater than any one of its characters, and yet inseparable from each of them. In the same moment when her parents are drawing from the Pacific for sustenance, Theresa’s mother is lost at sea, an event that divides her family and sends her father away from traditional harvesting and into business. Growing up in the confusing wake of her family’s sometimes paralyzing grief, Theresa prides herself on her independence and cannot be sure that her relationships — to the people around her, and to the water of life, can situate her in a place of power. It is at this time that the Coast Salish story of the Salmon Spirit interrupts her body with beautiful reminders that our struggles inevitably propel and strengthen us in journey toward the future.

“It’s not distinctly male and female, everybody has a role to play. In the centre there’s the children. Around them, the elders hold hands, the women hold hands, and around them, the men hold hands … how do we mend these circles again?” Scott asks.

SPAWN is a story about the strength we don’t always know we are developing, and the generations feeding from the power of our pasts awaiting upstream, whether we know we are swimming toward them or not.

Tickets for Summerworks performances of SPAWN are Pay-What-You-Decide and can be booked at www.summerworks.ca/artists/spawn

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