20 shows into this process, two weeks in Manitoba, and over half way through this journey, we’ve arrived in Saskatoon and so begin the next best western part of the tour.
We oriented ourselves into the middle of the prairies (Saskatchewan, Naturally) by visiting the MCCS offices, participating in a Webinar on Restorative Justice, and catching fast falling drips from icecream on cones while strolling along the South Saskatchewan River. It is warm and sunny from our view here. All in a day’s work.
The past two weeks in Manitoba have been full of learning as deep as these prairie roads are vast. Intensive schedules meant traveling to southern cities of Winkler, Gretna and Steinbach, and of course, in Winnipeg. In the span 48 hours, we performed 6 shows, and on one remarkable day 3 times in 3 different venues! This was a test for everyone’s endurance and spirit and teamwork and I’m happy to say we’ve not only come through on the other side unscathed, but I think better for it.
The day of 3 intense performances began in the morning (with a couple rounds of coffee) at friendly Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, where the play was the sermon! This was a first for us, and I think the church community as well. We engaged with some very inspiring people afterwards in the talkback. “Forgiven/Forgotten” struck a chord with the church as they are in the process of discerning how to be the most welcoming place they can be – not only to offenders and victims of crime, but to LGBTQ communities, too.
We struck the set at FGMF in record time and made it to the University of Winnipeg’s Eckhardt Gramatte Hall for a matinee performance, where many folks from the city, not necessarily connected with a faith community, attended the performance. A common question in the post-show talkbacks is becoming: “Would a church actually not accept someone who has offended?” This play doesn’t answer questions, it raises them.
Memories of Fig Feta Quinoa Salad on the lawn of the Legislature still gives me a flash of energy; we rested for a moment outside the grand government buildings before we entered the Winnipeg Remand Centre to perform in a prison for the first time. We had been nervously anticipating this day for this reason. When presenting this challenging play to those inside, we wanted to make sure that there was a message of hope for them to glean, and that they would gain a new awareness into the hurt they’ve caused for victims. The words we were speaking and the roles we were playing suddenly had deep, new meaning within this context.
This is only scratching the surface of the Manitoba tour, but this offers a glimpse into the diversity of audiences we perform for, and the rich encounters we continue to have. We were hosted by incredibly generous billets and were able to share in life and community with friends, new and old.
Below is a picture taken underneath a bridge spanning the South Saskatchewan River. It feels like in many ways, we’ve been helpers to bridge builders. It is a privilege to partner with Mennonite Central Committee on this project and as we move from one province to the next, we are invited into a new story, a new geography, a new people, a new place. As we perform in a variety of diverse venues for unique audiences, we invite folks into a play and the lives of characters affected by hurt and crime. By using the same medium and sharing the same message with different peoples in different places, we certainly are made aware of how much bigger this journey is than just ourselves. And prone to see bridges beginning to be built.
We’ve seen Lake Ontario change to Superior. We’ve seen the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet, and now we’re here on the South Saskatchewan. We’re seeing hope for bridges that can be built between the here and then and now, the church and world, and the victim and offender and community. Doesn’t matter what body of water it’s over. It’s a common, human, global, and local effort.