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Magnus  Students Receive Lt Governor's Heritage Award
Robert McKenzie
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Magnus Students Receive Lt Governor's Heritage Award

Youth Achievement Awards for topic of reconciliation in Canada

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~  February 26, 2022  (LSNews) Ten local young people have received Youth Achievement Awards for their work on a collaborative theatre project focused on the topic of reconciliation in Canada. 

Joshua Audley, Cornelius Beaver, Keira Essex, Emma Kaminawash, Chase Lester, Brook Malone, Jasmine Mcguire, Asia Polhill, Alexa Sagutcheway, and Calli Thompson are among the 126 young people across Ontario to receive the award celebrating exceptional voluntary contributions to heritage conservation by youth aged 24 and under for their work on STOLEN, AZHEN. 

The project is a youth-led production that was originally conceived as Magnus Theatre’s 2019-2020 Collective Creation Project (CCP). The CCP is an annual cooperative effort between the theatre and local high school students from across the city to create a work around a relevant social issue. Students are guided by professional theatre staff in all aspects of creation, including writing, staging, and performance.

The topic of reconciliation had been suggested by long-time Magnus Theatre student, Cornelius Beaver, in an effort to tell a story relevant to both his First Nations heritage and the wider City of Thunder Bay, a region that is home to one of the largest populations of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The title, STOLEN, AZHEN, translates into “Stolen, Returned” or “Stolen, Taken Back” in Ojibwe. The story is set in the present day and follows a teenager named Aurora who leaves her First Nations Reserve to attend high school in a large urban centre. Through her relationship with her mother and grandmother, Aurora confronts the ongoing impacts of residential schools on both her immediate family and her community. The story explores themes of racism, colonization, and cultural appropriation and highlights the staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
“This play - which in itself is an act of reconciliation - highlights a few of the struggles Indigenous people face because of the colonial attitudes and violence that has been ingrained into our society for hundreds of years,” said Keira Essex, a long-time CCP participant and co-creator of STOLEN, AZHEN. “It is a call to action for the public to think more deeply about reconciliation and to work harder to achieve it. Reconciliation is the responsibility of everyone. It is something Indigenous and non-Indigenous people must work on together so that we can begin healing,” she said.

Under the guidance of Cultural Consultant, Elliott Cromarty, and former Magnus Theatre in Education Director, Danielle Chandler, students worked on the script from November 2019 to March 2020. The production was originally slated to be staged in June 2020, but rehearsals and performances were pushed back due to the pandemic shutdowns. After consultation with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, students, and staff, it was decided that a filmed virtual read-through would be the best way to realize the project at that time.

“We are so proud of the achievement of these young people,” said current Magnus Theatre in Education Director, Jordan Blaxill. “To produce such a highly affecting and important piece of work against the background of a global pandemic and shifting to a virtual performance is a testament to their resilience and creativity. They are a credit to themselves, the theatre, and the city.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards are annual juried awards administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust to recognize the remarkable achievements in heritage conservation across the province. The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and John Ecker, Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust, presented projects and individuals who made exceptional contributions to heritage conservation with the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards during a virtual ceremony on February 24, 2022. 

“I am delighted to join the Ontario Heritage Trust in celebrating individuals and organizations that have made exceptional contributions to preserving Ontario’s heritage. As the future of our province, it’s essential for young people to appreciate and understand our collective history – both the good and the bad. That is why I am particularly moved by the curiosity of the more than 120 young people receiving awards this year who have sought out marginalized stories and experiences and have helped make them part of the fabric of our province,” said the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. 

STOLEN, AZHEN is available to view on Magnus Theatre’s YouTube channel and website. The project was presented in partnership with the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and supported by a generous grant from the Thunder Bay Community Foundation with additional funding from the Ontario Arts Council. 

#LSN_Arts  #LSNews_TBay 

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