‘Spirit Horse’ performed for students


Students across the district were treated to the professional theatre performance of “Spirit Horse” as it galloped into the district this past week.
“It’s good for both teachers and students,” said local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario president Trevor Bowles about the opportunity to bring in a show like “Spirit Horse” to the district, as part of a joint initiative between ETFO and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).
The play which tells the story of two aboriginal children whose family is caught between the traditional ways and contemporary urban culture, took to the Townshend Theatre Friday, as well as in other schools
“Spirit Horse” is actually based on the play “Tir Na N’Og” by British playwright and director Greg Banks, having been adapted for a Canadian audience by Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden for Toronto’s Roseneath Theatre.
Funding from the Ministry of Education has meant that the Roseneath Theatre is currently taking the play on a 33-community tour, reaching students from Grade 3-8 in 40 Catholic and public schools across Northern Ontario.
And as part of the “Spirit Horse” initiative, close to 40 teachers in each of the public and Catholic boards will receive up to 10 hours of hands-on professional development in how to bring drama, dance, music and visual arts into the classroom.
“There is a shortage of P.D. for the North and it gives teachers an opportunity to have the professional development that teachers in other parts of the province have the opportunity [to have],” Bowles noted about the project.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids interested in arts to see a professional group of people come in and put on a professional production,” he said about other benefit of bringing in the show.
For example, while there were only three actors, each played nine or ten different characters and the way that they “blended from character to character was amazing,” he said.
“For some [students, the arts are] what they love. So to be able to see that first and with people on the stage—It’s just something that’s a little different for the kids that they don’t get to see very often,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this for a while, but this is my first theatre gig, and it’s amazing the emotions that we get from the kids, and how interested they are and how engaged they are,” said Alex Lamoureux, who is travelling with the show as the onstage musician.
Lamoureux, who is an award-winning fiddler from Winnipeg, is joined on stage by actors Cara Gee, Michaela Washburn. and Meegwun Fairbrother, all of whom are of First Nation descent.
“People are laughing, people are crying, people are on the edge of their seats in suspense. It’s a big adventure story and it explores all the emotions for sure,” he said.
While there is laughter in the play, it also tackles some “pretty hard issues” such as racism, he noted, which make people feel uncomfortable, sad all at the same time.
But it’s important to do this, he said, so people can become more aware of the issue of racism.
“Racism exists, and if you point it out to people—we have the opportunity to cut it off, or stop it,” said Bowles. “And if we can teach the students in our schools that it’s a choice, then everybody will be better off for it.”
This particular professional development not only has to do with the arts, but First Nations arts, he added.
“And because it’s got First Nation content, it opens the lines of communications for teachers and students at schools,” he added.
“The more you know about the person sitting beside you, the easier it is to be able to get along.”
As part of the “Spirit Horse” project, students and teachers also have the opportunity to interact with cast members throughout the tour through the website www.spirithorse.ca where they can post drawings, poems and stories about the show, as well as follow its blog.