A historical play about racism in the southern U.S. is shining a spotlight on current issues close to home in Saskatchewan.
Best of Enemies by Mark St. Germain tells the true story of a black civil rights activist and a Ku Klux Klan leader in South Carolina in 1968.
Nicole Hicks-Wedge plays the black activist Ann Atwater and said the message of the story is relevant to current events in the U.S. and closer to home in Canada.
“I was really drawn to the power of the story and I think it’s perfect and timely in telling it in this day and this climate right now,” Hicks-Wedge commented.
Growing up in the U.S. with a black father from the south and a white mother, Hicks-Wedge admitted she has felt her fair share of racism.
Now living and working in Regina, the actress said she felt a particular connection to her character as a mother who wants to fight for a better future for her children.
“I definitely hope that my boys can get a level of peace when it comes to racism and classism, sexism – whatever,” she said. “The fiery subject is at the time that they can be able to live happy lives and not have to be touched by this or have their lives necessarily dictated or affected by the choices of other people or the hatred of other people.”
Hicks-Wedge hopes her sons grow up to be more accepting than past generations.
She noted the frustration she has seen all over the media and social media over recent court rulings in western Canada and hopes audiences will learn something about the present from this portrayal of racism in the past.
“This is in 1968 and we’re in 2018 and still dealing with these types of issues pretty prevalently and I’m hoping that by seeing another outside story, that we could draw a few parallels and maybe do a little reflection and understand where our hatred – if that’s what you’re feeling towards any particular race or class or sex – that we can find the humanity and empathy in this story like the characters do in act two,” Hicks-Wedge commented.
While the first act of the play contains some disturbing content, Hicks-Wedge says the two main characters –the activist and KKK leader – eventually find a common bond in their love for their children.
“They realize that they are both humans and they are both parents and they have love for their family and that is where they draw their humanity together. And I’d like to see Canadian audiences find that humanity and love for each other again because it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people and there shouldn’t be a divide like this.”
Theatre fans … meet football fans
And football fans might notice a familiar face as they head out to enjoy the show.
Former Roughrider Matt Dominguez is joining the cast to help to bring this story to life.
Dominguez plays a community leader who brings the unlikely pair together to talk about desegregating schools.
He may have been completely comfortable on the football field, but he admits he still feels like a rookie joining the cast of a play.
“It’s easy to be angry, but it’s the nuances of having to actually perform the lines and regurgitate the lines and the timing – yeah there’s some things to it that could be intimidating,” the former CFL wide-receiver said with a laugh in an interview with David Kirton on Saskatchewan Afternoon.
Director Amanda Schenstead said her rookie actor has done a great job.
“During rehearsals, Matt always had some really insightful comments, some really cool reflections on the character and how he was interpreting the character and so I just sort of worked with what he was coming up with and we figured it out together,” she said.
For his part, Dominguez said he didn’t initially notice a racism problem in Saskatchewan, but does point out a lack of diversity prevents people from getting comfortable with people who are different and that works both ways.
“Ultimately, I think it comes to each and every person to kind of branch out and just get to know somebody, because once you know somebody you can just walk in somebody’s shoes and they’re no longer scary and what they do is no longer weird to you and how they react to things,” Dominguez commented.
Best of Enemies is a collaboration between Theatre Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Evening performances run Tuesday Feb.27 to Friday March 2 at 7:30 p.m. The final performance is March 3 with a Saturday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. at the Artesian on 13th Avenue in Regina. Tickets are available online and at the door.