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The Rez Sisters
Transcript of The Rez Sisters
By: Tomson Highway
About The Author
Tomson Highway is not only a playwright but also a novelist, pianist, and songwriter. He grew up to a family of 12 children and caribou hunters on the Manitoba/Nunavut border, and can speak Cree (some of the sentences in The Rez Sisters are written in that language) and Dene which are two Aboriginal languages. The Native Earth Preforming Arts in Toronto was run by Tomson Highway. It is where an entire generation of Native playwrights, actors, and theater companies were born. The Rez Sisters is one of his best known plays.
Summary Of The Play
The Rez Sisters focuses on the hopes and dreams of a group of seven women on the Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve.The Rez Sisters features an ensemble cast of seven women dreaming of winning and working toward raising enough money to attend "The Biggest Bingo in the World," and one male actor/dancer in the role of Nanabush. These characters display the natural desire to rise above their surroundings and create a better environment for their children and each other. Although the reserve can be viewed as a place of misery, with little hope, and where there is nothing to do but “drink and screw each other’s wives”, the screenwriter uses optimism and humour in his characters and includes the positive values taught in Indian mythology. The play melds the sometimes dark realities of life on an Indian reserve with humour and elements of Aboriginal spirituality. It features excerpts of dialogue in the Cree and Ojibway languages. The play focuses on the six women who are all related to one another by birth or marriage. Each character has a different attitude towards their life on the reservation and their dreams of leaving it. They all impact each other in different ways and have a different way of showing it. Each character has their own idea on what to do with the money from “The biggest bingo in the world”. Complaining that their bingo in their community is too small they decide to go to Toronto. The women make all the money they need in less than a week. The “sisters” encounter and overcome several diversions and obstacles on their way to Toronto, and the climax of the characters’ emotional personalities are heightened during the exchange of the women’s stories.
Pelajia Patchnose: Her sons are in Toronto, while her husband is in Espanola. Her mother is dead. She is the sister of Philomena and she works as a contractor. She is trapped at the reserve which she has come to hate. By the end of the play, she is back where she started (on the roof) still trapped in the reserve. She often considers becoming the chief.
Philomena Moosetail: She had an affair with her lover who is also her boss in Toronto and conceived a child but she gave the child away. She knows nothing of the child she bore, not even the gender. Her boss then left with his wife. Her sister is Pelajia. She wins $600 from the bingo and buys herself a new shiny, porcelain toilet bowl. No major change occurs in life as she is also back where she started, on the roof.
Marie-Adele Starblanket: Stole Eugene from Annie Cook. She has fourteen kids with him. She is the half-sister of Pelajia and Philomena. She has a growing cancer which kills her as the rest of the women lose the bingo game.
Annie Cook: She has a daughter, Ellen who lives with Raymond in Sudbury. She is the sister of Marie-Adele and half-sister of Pelajia and Philomena. She lost her love to her own sister Marie-Adele. She gets a job as a back-up singer for Fritz the Katz at Little Current. She also comes closer to achieving her new love for Fritz.
Emily Dictionary: She was severely mistreated by her husband forcing her to abandon him and her children. Former member of the Rez Sisters’ motorbike gang in San Francisco but left when her lover died. She is Annie's and Marie-Adele's sister and she is the half sister of Pelajia and Philomena. She becomes pregnant with Big Joey's baby.
Veronique St. Pierre: She is the sister-in-law of all the other girls and is disliked by almost everybody. Her and her husband adopt Zhaboonigan. Her husband Pierre drinks all the money away. She gets her new stove and is delighted to be cooking for Eugene and the fourteen Starblanket children
Zhaboonigan Peterson: She is the mentally disabled adopted daughter of Veronique. Her biological parents died in a car crash. She was sexually abused by two white men. Originally afraid of Emily Dictionary, she comes to trust her and in her final scene in the play is learning to help Emily at the store.
- "Adele, ki-sa-gee-ee-tin oo-ma" = Adele, I love you
- "Pelajia, een-pay-seek-see-yan" = Pelajia, I'm scared to death
-1st part: Marie-Adele
"Who are you? Who are you? Eugene? Nee. Then who are you really? Oh. It's you, so that's who you are... at rest upon the rock... the master of the game... the game... it's me... me... come... come... don't be afraid... come... come... to... me... ever soft wings... beautiful soft... soft... darkwings... here... take me... come... come... come and get me... wings here... take me... take... me... with... come... and get me..."
- 2nd part: Women
"Heaven, heaven, heaven, I'm going there; Heaven, heaven, heaven, I'm going there.