South Vancouver theatre company tackles bullying and intolerance in plays for kids

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Reported by Kurtis Gregory

South Vancouver’s Green Thumb Theatre intends to address recent political turmoil surrounding refugees and immigrants directly in future plays it takes on tour.

For over 40 years, Green Thumb Theatre has been putting on educational plays that instill positive messages for children, most recently touring a rendition of Dave Deveau’s Celestial Being, with its final performance last Wednesday at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School.

“We will take what’s going on south of the border in a very direct way, because I think it’s our responsibility as creators, and one of the artistic voices in our culture, to do that,” said Patrick McDonald, artistic director at Green Thumb Theatre.

Bullying in schools the focus of Green Thumb’s most recent performance

Jordan Jenkins (left), Katey Hoffman (right) during a performance of Celestial Being. Photo: submitted.

Celestial Being, intended for a primary school audience, is about a young girl named Celeste who finds out she has Asperger’s Syndrome and experiences bullying and social isolation as a result. The play features a small cast of actors that travels around Canada presenting the message of the play to young audiences.

With an increase in social tension and anti-refugee sentiment rising around the globe, Green Thumb Theatre’s plays are extremely relevant to young immigrants.

“It can take time for a child to feel welcome in a new culture,” said John Dubé, senior manager of settlement programs at MOSAIC, a local charity that helps immigrants settle into Canadian society.

MOSAIC often uses community events, including theatre performances, to help new immigrants integrate into Canadian society.

“That tends to work the best around doing group activities because then you’re not targeted,” said Dubé.

Theatre an ideal model for promoting acceptance in troubling times

Margaret Onedo, a third-semester student at Langara College’s Studio 58, who moved to Canada from Ethiopia when she was eight years old, believes theatre is well-suited for encouraging social acceptance with newcomers.

“Theatre is a very communal space, it’s a space where everybody can be accepted,” said Onedo.

“Everybody is in that experience together, they’re watching a live human, their breath is held and every moment you have to be actively there.”

 

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