Taran Kootenhayoo as Sqeweqs in Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, the next production in the Quesnel and District Community Arts Council’s Children’s and Family Concert Series. (Jayda Paige Photography)

Colourful characers and important messages introduced in Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish

Indigenous storytellers spin a tale from the Kwantlen First Nation July 31 in Quesnel

The next performance in the Quesnel and District Community Arts Council’s Children and Family Concert Series shares a powerful message about balance and giving and taking.

In Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, with drums, songs and masks, indigenous storytellers spin a tale from the Kwantlen First Nations Village of Squa’lets, about Th’owxiya, an old and powerful spirit that inhabits a feast dish. Her dish holds beautiful foods from around the world, but be careful, stealing from her is dangerous business because Th’owxiya has developed a taste for children. When Th’owxiya catches a hungry mouse, Kw’atel, stealing a piece of cheese from her mouth, she demands two child spirits be brought for her to eat — or else, she will eat Kw’atel’s whole family.

Ignorant to her power yet desperate to save her family, Kw’atel sets forth on an intense journey to fulfill Th’owxiya’s demand. With the help of the Sqeweqs (Raven), two Spa:th (bears), and Sasq’ets (sasquatch), Kw’at’el finds alternate gifts to appease the goddess, and the journey becomes one of knowledge, understanding and forgiveness.

Playwright Joseph Tony Dandurand of the Kwantlen First Nation first wrote this story 25 years ago.

He had just graduated from Theatre School at the University of Ottawa, and he was given an internship at the Museum of Civilization as a writer for the museum’s in-house theatre company.

“In the Grand Hall, there were many longhouses, and sitting on the stage was a feast dish laying on its back and it was as big as a totem pole, and I wrote the play,” he said, emailing in between rehearsals for another project he is working on. “When I send out my new plays, I usually try and hit as many theatre companies as possible, and I had sent one of mine to Axis Theatre Company.”

He recalls Axis Theatre artistic director Chris McGregor wrote back and said the theatre company was in need of a children’s theatre piece, and he asked if Dandurand had any plays for children.

Dandurand says he was surprised that he had a copy of The Hungry Feast Dish — which he had saved on a floppy disk. He sent the play to McGregor, and they workshopped it, then produced it at the University of British Columbia.

“I like the simple teaching that it has for kids, it is a teaching from our people, and that is when you take something from the earth or from the river, that you should always give something back, or there will be nothing left,” Dandurand says of his play.

When he thinks about what he would like his audience members to take away from his play, Dandurand says he hopes they like the characters.

“I hope that kids like the characters, as they are not ones that they perhaps have the opportunity to see, such as the sasquatch and the raven and the mouse,” he said.

Dandurand writes every day, and he says he is currently 60 pages into a new book of short stories. This year, he has two books of poetry coming out, as well as another manuscript of short stories.

McGregor says he wanted to produce this play because it scared him.

“Tony sent me the play, and I loved the storytelling aspect of it, the animal characters, the message, the potential for mask work, puppetry, original music, drumming and a story that has never been told,” he said in an email interview. “The idea of bringing a Kwantlen play to people who may have never heard of the Kwantlen people before … I learned there are only 500 left from thousands that lived all along the Fraser River.”

McGregor hopes that when people watch this play, they get the notion that everything works together, spirits, humans and nature.

McGregor says Th’owxiya has received a lot of positive feedback.

“Poetic, at once modern and traditional, and with a message for our times that was loud and clear without being moralistic,” one parent at the UBC Botanical Gardens said in a testimonial. “I was thrilled to discover distant echoes of stories I grew up with in a very different part of the world. Way, way back, we all connect through our stories … But it was mostly great to see this Kwantlen story brought to life with such skill, grace and warmth.”

Th’owxiya was nominated for Outstanding Design Set, Costumes and Props, for Outstanding Composer/Musical Direction and for Significant Artistic Achievement for centrally focusing on an Indigenous story at the 2016-17 Jessie Richardson Awards.

“As a group, the sextet of young actors is obviously having fun with the story, enticing the younger members of the audience into the story,” says Mark Robbins of Vancouver Presents. “On a couple of occasions, the enticement is quite literal, as the younger audience members are invited to be participants … what makes Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish truly unforgettable is in its engaging story steeped in tradition.”

The Quesnel and District Community Arts Council’s Children’s and Family Concerts Committee presents Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish Friday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Chuck Mobley Theatre at Correlieu Secondary School. There will be pizza for $2 at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 each or $40 for a family of five (and $5 for each extra person) and are available at Bo-Peep, Circle “S” Western Wear, the Quesnel Visitor’s Centre, the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre and at the door.

READ MORE: Quesnel and District Community Arts Council reveals lineup for children’s concert series



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Live theatre

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Top Quesnel Curling Sponsor League teams fall as the pack tightens

QLC and CDC pick up easy wins, while Billy Barker and Redz Shedz muscle their way to victory

Quesnel Waveriders win 77 medals at home meet

Twenty Quesnel swimmers won medals during the Feb. 8-9 event

Forestry Hockey League: BCS reclaims top spot

BCS rolls over Bear 5-1, while Serenity snaps losing streak with a 4-3 win over Fraser River

Letter to the editor: Quesnel Good Cheer program helped 638 families in 2019

Volunteers thank the community and vow to keep looking for a solution to keep Good Cheer going

Forestry Ink: Using salts to capture and store solar thermal energy?

Regular columnist Jim Hilton shares more information about solar energy

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Missing Okanagan snowmobiler found safe

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Woman arrested in Cariboo after fuel stolen, police car rammed

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

No dramatic shifts expected as B.C. government tables new budget today

Finance Minister Carole James has promised to stay the course when she tables the budget in the legislature

AFN national chief calls for calm on Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline

Federal, B.C. ministers seek meeting with Wet’suwet’en in hope of blockade solution

Coastal GasLink signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route

Flight to evacuate Canadians from cruise ship ‘expected’ to depart Japan on Thursday

Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act

Most Read