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Classic Canadian play gets West Coast take at Douglas College

An award-winning Canadian play is getting a dose of present-day reality by making its main character Indigenous and setting it in East Vancouver.

Presented by the departments of Theatre and Stagecraft & Event Technology, Lion in the Streets by Judith Thompson follows the story of Isobel and her journey to discover what happened to her.

In the original play, the story is set in Toronto, and nine year-old Isobel is Portuguese-Canadian and adopted into a Portuguese family. In the Douglas College version, the story is set in East Vancouver, and Isobel is First Nations and adopted into a Portuguese family.

Director Claire Fogal wanted to change the character’s background.

“Given Isobel’s courage, innocence and strength, it makes sense for her to represent as First Nations because of what they are battling right now with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Isobel’s journey resonates more to me with the status of Indigenous people in Canada and the long oppression, the long silencing and ignoring,” says Fogal.

Before casting the play, Fogal contacted Thompson to make sure she supported her take.

“She said ‘absolutely’ to locating it here and having it be present day and transposing that character from a Portuguese-Canadian girl to a First Nations girl,” says Fogal.

Fogal consulted with Natalie Knight, an Indigenous instructor at the College and with actor Kayla Krishna, who plays Isobel. The production has also received the support of local First Nations elders.

Thrasso Petras, Coordinator of the Douglas College Theatre program, says the first time he saw the play - when he was a student – he was terrified. But in a good way.

“It caused me to consider deeply the extraordinary brutality, fragility and determination of our human condition ‒ the things that pull us apart and draw us together.”

He says the play continues to resonate 25 years later, especially with Fogal’s take on what Petras considers a Canadian classic.

Fogal says there isn’t a dull moment in the play.

“Every single scene is characters coming to a huge realization or finally doing what they needed to do or standing up for themselves after never doing that for years and years.”

The student cast of the production includes Kayla Krishna (Powell River), Etella Keenan (Surrey), Madison Severyn (White Rock), Marina Cindrich (Vancouver), Emma Davis (Ladner/Delta), Amanda Dinelle (Surrey), Meghan Hallam (Surrey), Leah Lueneberg (Surrey), Dani Brekke (Surrey), Christian van Geyn (Coquitlam), and Alex van Geyn (Coquitlam). Douglas College alumni include Christian Krushel (Coquitlam) and Ian Duck.

Lion in the Streets runs March 16 -23 in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for seniors, students, matinees and Talkback Tuesdays. For tickets and show times, visit

Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-ready skills of a college to provide the most relevant and inspiring undergraduate experience in British Columbia. 

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Sucheta Singh, Communications Coordinator

604 527 5806