Wednesday 29 March 2023

The First Stone at GCTC is an epic new play about forgiveness, conflict, and repair

Dorothy A. Atabong and Uche Ama in The First Stone Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

To close out its 22-23 Season, Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) is thrilled to co-produce, with New Harlem Productions, The First Stone, an epic new play by three-time Governor General Literary Award-nominated playwright Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. This show features a 14-person ensemble and is one of the largest productions in GCTC’s 48-year history.

The First Stone ensemble Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

The First Stone marries text, movement, and song to tell a universal story that tackles ideas of generational violence, forgiveness, and what it really means to come home. During the Ugandan Civil War, two children are captured into an army, while their father fights on the other side. Their mother will do anything to get them back. St. Bernard points us towards hope, showing us how a community can repair after being torn apart.

“The question of who gets to go home is one that impacts us all,” says playwright Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, “echoing from the ranks of minor combatants to the bunks of residential schools, the broken foster care system and contemporary youth incarceration facilities. This play aims to hear from the children.”

Tsholo Khalema in The First Stone Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

The First Stone was written as part of St. Bernard’s 54ology, a series of performance works responding to historical and current contexts of African countries. Through 54ology, St. Bernard aims to look at each country in Africa through a different piece of performance work.

“Everything that we are doing in this play,” says St. Bernard, “everything that we are doing in this story, has everything to do with where we are now with how we encounter justice in our lives every day, with what is expected of us. Even if the story we are hearing seems like it is a faraway story, it expects something of us here, now where we are.”

St. Bernard is the Artistic Director of New Harlem Productions, the co-producers of this show. New Harlem Productions is a project-based arts organization that prioritizes marginalized narratives. They undertake projects with consideration for sustainability, solidarity, professional development, equitable resource distribution, social implications, and front-line experiences.

The First Stone is directed by Yvette Nolan, who worked with St Bernard for several years at Native Earth Performing Arts. The show had its premiere in October in downtown Toronto at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and now the original Toronto cast is joined in Ottawa by a chorus of six local performers. The show will run for two weeks at GCTC’s Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, with previews on April 11 and 12, and opening night April 13.

Standard ticket prices range from $26-$55, and can be purchased online at, over the phone at 613-236-5196, or at the GCTC Box Office at 1233 Wellington Street W. To make theatre at GCTC more financially accessible, limited “Pick-Your-Price” tickets are also available for each performance. Pick-Your-Price tickets are available for $15, $25, and $35; pick whichever price makes the most sense for you.

Accessible performances include relaxed and reduced capacity shows, a Pay-What-You-Decide option on April 16, and ASL interpretation at the April 21 performance. Please see the website for details, or contact the box office.

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