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UFV Theatre makes the move to Abbotsford with Grand Theft Terra Firma

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With the end of the semester just around the corner, the UFV theatre department is preparing for their last production of the year.

The premiere of UFV Theatre’s final production for the year, Grand Theft Terra Firma: Stories of (Re)Conciliation, will take place on April 6 at The Reach Gallery — the first time a UFV production has been shown in Abbotsford.

As a result of the recent sale of UFV’s former Chilliwack North campus, the theatre department is moving to Abbotsford, and this is their first production that will having showings in both cities.

The play explores how the territories of the Stó:l? people were colonized in the 1850s and 1860s, and asks what is the fingerprint of that history nowadays, in people of both Indigenous and settler ancestry.

The production is a recollection of fragments of memory addressing difficult topics. “We wanted to tell real stories. I became interested in the word reconciliation. A lot of people have problems with it because it’s a Western word with Christian connotations,” explained Phay Gagnon, director of the play and theatre student at UFV. “There are a couple of stories about intergenerational trauma, about how their grandparents and parents were in residential schools.”

Gagnon explained that the play is a way to combat ignorance surrounding reconciliation, and spark discussion surrounding it. “It is just having a conversation and hoping that the community will be a part of it. This show is just a small part of this ocean, of this conversation,” she said.

There have been several meetings to craft the different parts of the story and the different perspectives. Gagnon worked with the support of her mentor, actress and teacher in the theatre department Raïna von Waldenburg, in addition to two fellow UFV students who helped with the research and artistic creation through dramaturgy.

For the first time, a production from the department is taking place in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford, and switching between the two locations has proved to be difficult. “The main challenge was figuring out the logistics,” Gagnon said. “We don’t have the same resources here, the lights and even the seats are not the same. We are going to be performing in a very different way in a very small part of The Reach Gallery that is very beautiful and that we didn’t want to alter.”

Not only does the space provide challenges, but the human factor is also a fundamental key. “It has been a very tricky process, for not being in the same building with faculty members that make sure that everything is good to go like we’re used to,” said Gagnon.

There are only around 20 seats at The Reach, so it is necessary to reserve tickets before the shows, but admission will be by donation at the door. Showings will be at The Reach Gallery (Abbotsford) on April 6, 7, and 8 at 7:30 p.m., on April 9 at 2 p.m., or at the Stó:l? Resource Centre (Chilliwack) on April 20, 21, and 22 at 7.30 p.m. and on April 23 at 2 p.m.

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