Two Plays About Residential Schools: Press Release

NEW RELEASE: Two Plays About Residential School (Indigenous Education Press) honours the fearless voices of residential school survivor Larry Loyie (Cree, 1933-2016) and intergenerational survivor Vera Manuel (Secwepemc / Ktunaxa, 1949-2010). To order, call 1 519 753 1185, Extension 1.

In the early 1990s, two Indigenous authors wrote about their individual experiences of residential schools. Ora Pro Nobis, Pray for Us by Larry Loyie and Strength of Indian Women by Vera Manuel were staged a decade before Canada apologised for the residential school system, and 15 years before Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“These plays shook audiences with the truth about residential schools,” recalls editor, and Larry Loyie’s longtime partner, Constance Brissenden. “Larry Loyie and Vera Manuel courageously tackled a hidden history. Most Canadians didn’t know about residential schools. Others questioned their negative effects.”

With honesty, and often humour, the authors reinforce the voices of survivors. “Two Plays About Residential School is essential reading along the path of truth and reconciliation,” says publisher Jeff Burnham, founder of Indigenous Education Press / www.goodminds.com in Brantford, Ontario

Larry Loyie spent six years at St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta. His award-winning books include the national history Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors (Indigenous Education Press) and two children’s books on the subject, the multi-award-winning As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood) and its best-selling sequel Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Theytus).

L to r: Larry Loyie, Isaac Johnson, Joseph Andrews, George Grey, front Walter Twin, students at St. Bernard Mission residential school, circa 1945, after travelling to McLennan, AB, to play a hockey game … “Who would believe a scruffy team like the Beans could beat the McLennan All-Stars,” Larry wrote joyfully in his play Ora Pro Nobis, Pray For Us.

In Ora Pro Nobis, Pray for Us, the lively friendship of a group of boys help them survive their residential school years.

In Larry Loyie’s introduction to the play, he writes, “For Indigenous people, writing helps others understand who we are and what we went through. It’s a way to share our traditions and our healing journeys.” Larry Loyie spent more than two decades talking to students about residential school history, giving more than 1,600 presentations.

In Vera Manuel’s Strength of Indian Women, four elders prepare for a teenage girl’s coming-of-age feast. As they work together, the women reveal the secrets of their residential school years.

Playwright, poet and healer, Vera Manuel in 1998

Both of Vera Manuel’s parents, political leader George Manuel and spiritual leader Marceline Manuel, attended residential schools. Vera Manuel, a poet, performer and healer, directly experienced the fallout.

“I mourned that little girl who never had a childhood,” she writes in her introduction. “I mourn the mother missing from my childhood, and I gave thanks for the mother who became my loving teacher in adulthood.”

Compassion, humour, and hope mark Two Plays About Residential School and the works of Larry Loyie and Vera Manuel. The anthology is a must for all readers, for teachers, libraries, and collections.

Two Plays About Residential School is available from Indigenous Education Press / www.goodminds.com. To order, call GoodMinds.com, indigenous book distributor and publisher, at 1 519 753 1185, Extension 1, or order online at www.goodminds.com.

The book is $19.95, 120 pages, includes two full-length plays, author notes, production notes, photo credits.

About Constance Brissenden

Constance Brissenden (BA, MA, Theatre) is a writer, editor, and educator. In 1992, she met Cree First Nations author Larry Loyie in a free creative writing class in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Focusing on Indigenous history, culture, and pride, Larry and Constance were a dynamic duo. They wrote eight books together based on Larry Loyie's traditional childhood and his six years in residential school. After more than 20 years of research, they completed the national bestselling history, Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors (Indigenous Education Press). Together they gave more than 1,600 talks and 100 writing workshops across Canada. Larry Loyie (1933-2016) was dedicated to sharing his pride in his culture and traditions, and educating others about the hidden history of residential school. Constance Brissenden continues to share Larry Loyie's legacy. She is honoured to have been part of his inspiring journey, and continues to write, edit, and teach in his memory. Constance Brissenden can be reached at: firstnationswriter@gmail.com
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