Exploring Justice with Gwaandak Theatre

Gwaandak Theatre is known for producing high quality, thought provoking and original productions. A large portion of its mandate is to help cultivate Aboriginal and Northern artists gain professional experience and exposure on stages close and far from home.

Now celebrating their 15th year, Gwaandak continues to cultivate new theatre and artists with Its Exploring Justice play reading series, which runs until June.

The Exploring Justice series centres on staged readings of five new plays written by Yukon playwrights that deal with “complex real-life situations around crime, justice, war, decolonization, personal responsibility and complicity.”

The Exploring Justice series was conceived when Managing Artistic Director and Gwaandak theatre co-founder Patti Flathers noticed a lot of recurring themes about human struggle and inequalities in the company’s Yukon Rising Voices playwright group and created the Exploring Justice series to help foster and engage these heavy themes.  

An open call for play submissions was sent out by the company and five plays were chosen to be presented.

“I chose (the theme of) justice that would stimulate and engage, and shows that were finished,” Flathers says. “The playwrights chosen have a level of commitment to their show. These plays look at stereotypes and complexity, and the way society can shape the way we act. The Exploring Justice series through Gwaandak gives them a chance to share them, making them as powerful as possible.”

Clare Preuss and Yvette Nolan are guest directors from outside the territory who  were invited to help guide the plays and bring a fresh perspective to the playwrights and actors.     

“Bringing up guest directors is great because they have the ability to see the talent and writers in the territory and it’s also an opportunity for them to go back and expose these stories to a wider audience,” Flathers says.

Though the plays share similar themes each is its own separate story from different world perspectives.

The play Chance by Melaina Sheldon is about a young First Nations woman who goes out on the town where things do not go as planned.  

Wren Hookey’s play Bystander is about an officer in time of war that shows up at a citizen’s door requesting hospitality and carrying a mysterious message that challenges their conscience in a society built on fear.

Lillian Nakamura Maguire’s play Hidden Memories centres around the daughter of Japanese immigrants who sifts through her parents’ memorabilia and triggers memories that shaped her family.

Leonard Linklater’s play Drunk focuses on “an indigenous person who has suffered through the processes and instruments of colonization and escaped into a life of alcohol abuse.”

Kevin Kennedy’s play Turpentine revolves around an alleyway encounter between a First Nations ex con and his teacher from jail.

The shows are tense in subject matter, enabling the Exploring Justice series to offer an inside look at some of the issues that continue to exist in our society and a venue to explore human nature – both good and bad.

“Everyone brings their own stories to a play; a lot of people will see them from a different view from their own,” remarked Flather’s.

The Exploring Justice playwriting series runs until June. If you would like to book a play reading event (subject to actor availability) contact Lea Roy at [email protected]  or by phone at 393-2676.

For more information go to GwaandakTheatre.ca.

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