Reservations by Steven Ratzlaff

When I read the synopses for the plays, I got a sense that they would be intense and bring out a lot of emotion. As the first one started, it was obvious to me that the character’s had specific roles that aligned with certain perspectives on indigenous issues.

I found the dynamics between character and perspective very thought provoking because all three of them had a reason to feel the way they did, but none of them had any resolution or final plan.

For example, Pete feels decides that instead of giving his land to his kids for their inheritance, he wants to give the land to the Siksika Nation. I found it interesting that an older white guy was thinking about the guilt he had over his ancestors’ colonializing the land. I liked that he was aware of the wrongs from the past, but he seemed like he hadn’t thought out his plan. Giving land to the Siksika’s isn’t going to solve anything, but if you want to help them and try to right old wrongs, what are you supposed to do?

I enjoyed the first play but I found the stakes could’ve been raised more. I wanted to see more discussion around why he wanted to give up his land. I wanted to know more about why his daughter, Anna, was so dependant on her inheritance and only seemed to accept Esther’s indigenous roots.

I absolutely loved the second play. The emotions and stubbornness in the character’s perspectives painted a good picture of the reality of people’s thoughts. I noticed myself getting caught up in Jenny’s character and her opinions but then critically thinking about how she is speaking from a position of white privilege. In her mind, she was providing the children the best place to grow up but didn’t understand how she was also contributing indirectly to their loss of culture and roots.

I thought the concept of deracination and devolution a bit tricky to understand but I felt like I got a good sense of what it was in context to the play. I think these are two huge issues that not many people think about. I know some people who saw the play didn’t appreciate the complexity or it’s intellectual level but I think that because of the extensive vocabulary, it made the themes stick. Whether you understood it or not, the concepts still bounce in your head and create discussion surrounding it.

As a philosophy major, I appreciated the philosophy talk at the end and found the relations between the quotes and the personal stories Denise shared at the end really powerful. What stuck with me was how one of Heidegger’s philosophy theories was about how some people choose to live in the presence of God and some choose to live in the absence. Christians reading scared texts from thousands of years ago, and never being called crazy and never having to lose their faith because a more dominant one took over, is acceptable in society. But indigenous people are being shamed for wanting to keep the connection to their roots. When Denise explained she chooses to live in the absence of God by being connecting to the forest and earth, she linked it to why so many indigenous people commit suicide. I interpreted that to mean that indigenous people don’t feel like they have a place on this earth and aren’t able to connect to their interpretation of God, so in order to feel like they belong, suicide is the right answer.

It was also brought to my attention that Heidegger was a German Philosopher and a Nazi. I found it very peculiar that Denise, a well-educated indigenous woman would be so keen to quote him and compare him with the struggle indigenous people face. It could be as simple as the quotes fit well with the point she was trying to make and that she didn’t hold a grudge against his beliefs as a way of moving forward.

The only other play I remember seeing was a long time ago and it was centered around a dance and performance theme. If I’m remembering correctly, it examined drug use. I remember being moved by the performances being incorporated into the play. But I can’t really compare the two issues because I think when you talk indigenous issues, you need to get them across on an educational, intellectual level so people critically think about it. Drug use is a huge issue in our society too but having discussions on drug use doesn’t come from a deep-rooted, cultural systematic problem that’s traced back to a long time ago.

I found the talk back session to be a waste of time and actually took away my buzz from being emotionally involved in the play. I think that when you have a room full of journalism students, you need to be open to answer questions or just not bother at all.

I have no knowledge about the way theatre productions should be made but I really liked the way the play was split in two and the roles and perspectives of the characters stayed the same throughout the entire show.

Overall, I really enjoyed this play and the discussion that have surrounded it.


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