The Canadian premiere of Constance Lindsay Skinner's Birthright opened at The Jericho Arts Centre on Friday 3 May 2003. This play was written in 1905 and first produced in Chicago in 1912. Though the playwright was Canadian, this work has not previously been seen in Canada.
and United Players are as pioneering in this play as are the missionaries
in the cast. But there the similarity ends. Director Joan Bryans has altered
very little of the original script, and this only to make the dialogue
more acceptable to 21st-century ears and less insulting to aboriginal
people. Considerable research with native scholars has gone into the presentation
of this work.
Mrs Maclean (Annie Smith) and her neighbours, Mrs Redfern (Fran Burnside) with her daughter Cissie (Kate Murphy) endeavour to keep up the illusion that they are still in a suburban milieu, discussing the expected arrival of the Maclean's son from university. There are hints that this young man, Harry, will become engaged to Cissie.
The serene atmosphere is shattered by the precipitate entrance of Precious, the Maclean's adopted daughter. Who is Precious Conroy and what are her origins?
Animatedly played by Odessa Shuquaya, Precious is a young woman with a mind of her own. She is certainly in love with Harry Maclean (Adam Lolacher), a diffident university student caught between British family discipline and his own desires. She is loved and wooed by Louis Prince, the son of the local chief and his wife. Harry and Precious seem to be destined for a future together, until the disturbing arrival of ne'er do well alcoholic, Tom Conroy (Terence Loychuk).
secret of Precious' mother is revealed and with it the clash of cultures
and racial prejudice surfaces. The stern Reverend Robert Maclean will
not sanction his son's engagement to Precious, and she cannot understand
why Harry will abandon her. Tom Conroy demands recompense for what he
alleges is the loss of his daughter, but what does he really want her