On January 4, 2013, 15-year-old Leah Anderson headed to the community arena in Gods Lake Narrows, Manitoba, to go skating. Two days later, her severely beaten body was found on a remote trail in the community with an autopsy revealing numerous defensive wounds on her hands.
Despite DNA evidence and several people identified as people of interest, her murder remains unsolved. The vibrant Cree teen is one of the more than 1,200 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls across Canada.
Castlereigh Theatre Project is a professional theatre company in Victoria, British Columbia, dedicated to the research, creation and production of new documentary theatre: fact-based plays built on real life accounts and storytelling that explores and investigates current and universal themes.
First learning of the murder through media reports, playwright Francesca Albright’s interest in Anderson’s story led to a creative collaboration with Kevin Lee Burton, a member of Gods Lake Narrows First Nation, who shared her passion for documentary storytelling.
Together they travelled to the remote fly-in reserve several times over six months to conduct interviews on a community level, gathering information and gaining permission to tell the story.
“We started to look at the context of Leah’s story, what happened to her, the role of caregivers and the systems and institutions that disrupt communities,” says Burton.
The result is God’s Lake, a verbatim documentary theatre piece that provides a glimpse into the reality of the people of Gods Lake Narrows. Based on the interviews they conducted, the story is told by four Indigenous performers from across Canada who portrays twenty-four characters of different genders, ages, and community roles.
Through the use of bold northern imagery and featuring an original live score by Anishinaabe artists Ziibiwan and Melody McKiver, God’s Lake offers an opportunity for audiences to gain an understanding of the reserve system and the complex issues facing people living in such a remote community.
God’s Lake runs at Presentation House Theatre (333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver) February 18 – 23. Visit phtheatre.org for tickets and information.