For two weeks in April, a town bus will be transporting people from a First Nations reserve to the city of Vancouver without ever leaving Collingwood.
Obviously, this is no ordinary transit ride, and the journey is staged.
Theatre Collingwood is taking its next show on the road, turning a town bus into the theatre for a one-man show called Tales of an Urban Indian. The show will be presented on a moving town bus and the stops are part of the story.
The actor who will be bringing all 54 characters to life is Craig Lauzon, known from his stint in the Royal Canadian Air Farce comedy troupe.
“It’s the story of a young native man leaving the reserve and moving to Vancouver,” said Lauzon. “It explores his triumphs, failures and his troubles. He wants to become an actor.”
The show, written by Simon Douglas and coming to Collingwood from Talk is Free Theatre, is set around the same time as the release of Dances With Wolves.
“It’s funny and touching; and it’s sad and poignant,” said Lauzon. “So many times, especially in the media, Native people are portrayed as victims, or usually in a negative light … In this story, he triumphs. It’s an uplifting story of someone coming out the other end as strong and capable.”
For Lauzon, the comedy is particularly important in a story about a Native boy.
“First Nations communities laugh a lot,” said Lauzon. “That doesn’t get portrayed a lot in film and television. Indians are always this sort of stereotypical stoic or angry character.”
Lauzon grew up in Ottawa. He is Anishnaabe, Ojibway, but he did not ever live on a reserve. He has had opportunity to play First Nations characters on stage, but no opportunity in film or television.
His mother is white, and he has inherited many of her features, including light skin.
“Theatre is more blind,” he said.
Lauzon said he can relate to the character he portrays even though his life was not all the same.
He does some work at the Centre of Indigenous Theatre in Toronto, which is a school filled with kids across the country who come from reserves and are pursuing a career in theatre.
“This is their first time away from home,” said Lauzon. “It’s a culture shock, it’s a struggle for them … On a reserve your family is everyone and you know everyone. It’s a real struggle for them to find that sense of family in the city.”
The Urban Indian story will resonate with anyone though, according to Lauzon.
“You don’t have to be or know a First Nations person to enjoy the show,” he said. “His struggles aren’t particular to First Nations people … you can be from any walk of life and understand where he’s coming from and the struggles he faces. It’s a fun show.”
The show is running in Collingwood from April 16 to 28 with eight performances per week and 36 tickets per show.
Tickets are available online or by phone at 705-445-2200. For the performance ticket purchasers are asked to meet at the front of the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts, 163 Hurontario St., Collingwood, one half hour before the start of the play/journey.