Saskatoon theatre production documents death of Colten Boushie, trial of Gerald Stanley
Play's creators facilitate discussion following performance to help audience debrief
A new Persephone Theatre production tackles one of the most controversial events in recent Saskatchewan history.
Reasonable Doubt examines Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomer relations through the lens of Colten Boushie's 2016 death and the resulting trial of Gerald Stanley.
The creators attempt to showcase every side of the story in the production.
"The piece actually started four years ago, long before anyone knew the names Colten Boushie and Gerald Stanley," said co-creator Joel Bernbaum.
All of a sudden people started speaking from a heart space and it was a new, kind of raw honesty.- Playwright Joel Bernbaum
The play was originally supposed to be written from interviews with people across the province on the far-reaching topic of relations between different groups.
Then Saskatchewan was rocked by Boushie's death.
"All of a sudden people starting speaking from a heart space and it was a new kind of raw honesty," Bernbaum said.
'They are part of our community'
Bernbaum began working with director Yvette Nolan and musician Lancelot Knight, who composed and performs the music of Reasonable Doubt.
Each left their own mark on the play, but they could only imagine the perspective of those closest to the tragedy. They invited the Boushie and Stanley families to participate in their storytelling.
"They are part of our community," said co-creator Nolan.
"We wanted to make sure that we did this in an honourable way and in a way that was full of integrity."
That meant being sensitive to the stories of the families involved.
The creators visited Red Pheasant First Nation, where Boushie lived prior to his death. They spoke to his mother, Debbie Baptiste.
They reached out to the Stanley family as well, but they declined to participate, Bernbaum said.
"We have built relationships with friends of the Stanley family," he said.
Time to process
Persephone Theatre has carved out time after the performance for audience discussion.
"If we do our jobs right, you come to the theatre and you hear your own opinions and feelings on stage," Bernbaum said.
"And you also hear totally new and different opinions and feelings on stage."
He encourages the audience to come to the performance with an open mind.
People may need to decompress after the show, so a quiet room will also be provided.