A Nisga’a student has turned her experience with racism into a one-act play that was recently selected as one of the top three winners in a provincial playwriting competition.
Miranda Baker has been performing since she was three years old, and when a gap in her schedule at Charles Hays Secondary School left her searching for options, her drama teacher, Alison O’Toole suggested she take a script writing class.
After workshopping her play through Digital LEAP, an online program that brings playwriting instruction to rural B.C. schools, she produced To Grow Up, a 50-minute play that addresses racism and how intergenerational trauma from residential schools affects the lives of two teenage characters.
“The story is centred around an Indigenous girl named Nicole, and it kind of goes through some of the struggles that she has to go through that come with growing up Indigenous in this day and age,” Baker said.
Nicole struggles with racism, fitting in, and how to heal, which she figures out with her best friend Damion.
Much of this story stems from an experience Baker had in her classroom. A discussion on renewable energies led to a debate on pipelines, and one of the cons raised was that many First Nations people oppose pipelines.
“It got way out of control and to a point where it crossed the line, and then you couldn’t get back from that,” Baker said.
After that moment, racism was no longer an “over there thing” — it was right in front of her. She had to write about it. What started as an essay evolved into the play. The writing process, she said, helped her come to terms with what had happened.
“I’m definitely more outspoken now,” she said. “When it happened, I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t say anything, and so it’s helped me be more active about Indigenous issues.”
As she wrote To Grow Up she took other Indigenous stories from people who weren’t comfortable sharing on their own, and she weaved their experiences into one play.
Subtle lines in the play address larger issues. Nicole’s mother doesn’t want men to call her daughter pretty because that was what her abusive foster father had called her.
“There’s a lot of back story that even though it’s not said in the play, it’s felt in play. Residual trauma is a real thing that a lot of people have to overcome,” Baker said.
To Grow Up was one of 16 plays that were entered into YouthWrite, a provincial playwriting competition put on by the Association of British Columbia Drama Educators.
Ms. O’Toole said she could count on one hand over the 25 years she’s taught just how many students have submitted plays, but this was the first to be selected as one of the top three.
“This has been her baby for a year. It’s not a fluke, she just worked really hard,” Ms. O’Toole said.
At first, Baker’s play was 10-minutes, but after eight major rewrites, 200 minor ones, she finished it and submitted.
“I’ve had a couple of students submit plays but not a lot. I could count on one hand over the 25 years I’ve taught but she’s the first one to be selected as as one of the top three,” Ms. O’Toole said.
“This is really exciting. This will be the first time we’re taking an original student written play and performing it at provincials. It’s a big deal.”
Before they head to the B.C. Drama Festival in New Westminster May 2-4, Prince Rupert residents will have a chance to watch the play in April.
In To Grow Up Miranda Baker will co-direct and play Nicole, Joe Cooper-Shaw will play Damion, Jordan Jackson is playing Hailey, and Ms. O’Toole is co-directing.
This past weekend, the drama club travelled to Smithers for Dramafest 2019 where they won their zones for their performance of Fighting Demons. Charles Hays Secondary School drama club will now be performing two plays at provincials.
Here are list of awards achieved:
Scott Langille received “Technical Design and Coordination Award” for lights and sound.
Three ‘demons’, Miranda Baker, Anne Nguyen and Kali Pomponio shared the Outstanding Achievement by actresses in a supporting role award. and shared an Outstanding Achievement in make-up award with Grace White.
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