Family loyalty and the challenges children in care face are two of the difficult topics Steven Ratzlaff tries to unravel in his new play, Reservations.
The production is actually two plays in one, each with unique story lines but connected by the same group of actors.
The first half of the play focuses on a Mennonite farmer from Alberta who decides to give his land to the nearby Blackfoot community, instead of giving it to his daughter. In the second half, non-indigenous parents are faced with the difficult task of raising their indigenous foster children in an environment that is sensitive to their heritage.
Indigenous issues in the news
"This play speaks to so many people at such an important time, it's such an important honour to be able to invite a discussion about it that we very much need in the city," said Cree actress Tracey Nepinak, who stars in Reservations.
For co-director Ian Ross, theatre plays an important role in challenging ideas about difficult topics.
"I think theatre should offend in some ways, it shouldn't be safe - we should be provocative," said Ross. "We hear about it every day in the news, and I think people are going to talk which for me is always a good place to start."
Steven Ratzlaff has never shied away from examining difficult topics through art. His two previous plays tackled the criminal justice and health care systems.
According to Nepinak, the fact that Ratzlaff is non-indigenous doesn't inhibit his ability to write a compelling and compassionate indigenous character.
"He's put these words on the page, I identify with them so strongly… it doesn't matter who wrote it, the purpose and the point of it is people need to hear it," said Nepinak.
Originally from Montreal, the play's co-director Emma Tibaldo wanted to work on Reservations because it tells important indigenous stories at a time when indigenous issues are all over the news.
Tibaldo said what surprised her is the amount of dialogue around indigenous issues in Winnipeg.
"People are really trying to grapple with the issues on a grassroots level, and I think some of the initiatives here are fantastic," said Tibaldo.
The play has already premiered to high school audiences, which has sparked important an important dialogue about the challenges that indigenous youth face.
Reservations opens to the public March 10th at the Rachel Browne Theatre and runs until March 20, 2016.