August 8, 2019

Yvonne Wallace’s “útszan” includes Truth and Reconciliation forums,
September 19 to 22, 2019


Whistler, BC – On the eve of the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Arts Whistler is thrilled to announce the world premiere of “útszan,” a new Canadian Indigenous play on stage at the Maury Young Arts Centre, September 19 to 22, 2019.

This compelling one-woman show uncovers Indigenous knowledge, humour, strength and resilience through language reclamation. Written and performed by Lil̓wat7úl artist Yvonne Wallace, “útszan” (to make things better) is a passionate story about how language informs identity. As Canadians grapple with the brutal legacies of colonialism and how to forge a new way forward through the Truth and Reconciliation process, “útszan” provides a forum for cultural learning, understanding and reconciliation that will resonate with all audiences.

The story focuses on the relationship between an aunt and her niece that has returned home to Líl̓wat Nation. Auntie Celia has something to teach her niece Margaret, so she devises a plan, refusing to speak English and only speaking in Ucwalmícwts. (Ucwalmícwts is the traditional language of Líl̓wat and the ten other St’at’imc Nation communities.) Join Margaret as she discovers that all the tools she needed to speak her first language were all around her in the land, stories and memories of her Ancestors, from September 19 to 22 at Maury Young Arts Centre.

“útszan,” which features both English and Ucwalmícwts dialogue, illustrates how language preservation and reclamation is essential to fostering healthy cultures. Playwright Yvonne Wallace and director Jefferson Guzman have cleverly devised the play so that the audience will understand the Ucwalmícwts dialogue within the context of the story. The play is also a Truth and Reconciliation opportunity, inviting our local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to come together in a shared emotional journey.

Yvonne Wallace shared, “Traditionally Master Storytellers would teach, inspire and truth-tell. I made a promise to my younger self to tell stories from my heart, and this is my heart story. In our traditions, audience, or listeners, had a responsibility to let the Storyteller know that they’re present and vocally engage. My play, to me, represents ‘Truth and Reconciliation’, and I hope that people from all walks can join me on this journey.”

Facilitated Q and A sessions following each performance will provide a forum for important questions and lay the foundation for greater understanding and compassion—both integral to forging a path of healing, reconciliation and friendship. Líl̓wat Nation Elders, Whistler Community Services outreach workers and playwright/actor Yvonne Wallace will lead the post-show dialogues. Ideas and recommendations captured in these discussions will influence future Truth and Reconciliation and relationship-building initiatives.

Arts Whistler is honoured to present this new work in collaboration with the project working group: Whistler Community Services Society, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Community Foundation of Whistler, Líl̓wat Nation, Dream Makers Literacy Coalition and Whistler Blackcomb. Contributions from the working group have made the “útszan” premiere accessible to everyone with tickets offered at $5/person. We are grateful for additional financial support from BC Hydro, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Fairmont Foundation.

Join us with your families, friends and community to come together as neighbours, learners and bridge builders, and help shape a kinder future through the experience of “útszan”.


“útszan” – Event details and tickets:

Tickets on sale now:  Online at artswhistler.com/utszan or at Maury Young Arts Centre.
Performance Dates:  Sept. 19, 20, 21, 22 at 7:00pm (Doors at 6:15pm)
Sept. 19, 20 Matinees at 1:00pm (Doors at 12:15pm)      
Price:    $5.00/person   
Age restrictions:  13+ (not suitable for elementary school-aged children)
Q and A sessions:  Facilitated Q and A sessions following each performance will provide a forum for
important questions and lay the foundation for greater understanding and compassion—both integral to forging a path of healing, reconciliation and friendship.
Website:  artswhistler.com/utszan


About Yvonne Wallace – Actor and Playwright:

Actor/playwright Yvonne Wallace has worked in Indigenous theatre since 1990.  After attending Toronto’s Native Theatre School, she took on the role of general manager for The Centre for Indigenous Theatre. In 1997, she graduated from George Brown College’s IPAC program before continuing her studies at Humber College. At Humber she completed her studies in Theatre Performance for Stage with honours and recognition for her outstanding body of work.

In 2018, Yvonne completed her studies at Capilano University earning a certificate in Líl̓wat Language and Culture and a Liberal Studies Bachelor of Arts. The one¬-woman show “útszan” was her graduating project, presented to faculty, peers, language learners, her language teachers and honoured Elders. For this work, she received an Outstanding Merit of Achievement medallion for community engagement from the Dean of Capilano University.

Following the premiere of “útszan” in Whistler, Yvonne has been invited to perform the play in Whitehorse and Dawson City and at the Heart of the City Festival in Vancouver.  She is excited to have the world premiere of “útszan” on the traditional territory of the Líl̓wat and to have it witnessed by her Elders of the St’at’imc Nation.


About Jefferson Guzman – Director (Actra/Equity):

Jefferson attended Humber College’s Performance program and won the Distinguished Performance Award upon graduation.

Jefferson wrote, produced and directed the short film “M-F”, (Canadian Filmmakers Festival) and two plays that premiered at Toronto’s Rhubarb Festival. Excerpts of his first play “Playing in the Leaves” were published by Playwrights Canada Press in “Gay Monologues and Scenes, An Anthology”. Jefferson wrote “Sofie & Leo”, which was developed with Alameda Theatre Company and directed by Guillermo Verdecchia. He continues to develop his play “Solaz” after initial development with Cahoots Theatre Company. 


About Arts Whistler:

Arts Whistler is passionate about Whistler, about arts and about making arts and culture an integral part of day-to-day life. Operating out of the Maury Young Arts Centre in the heart of Whistler Village, Arts Whistler runs a variety of creative classes, showcases an exciting lineup of live shows for Arts Whistler Live! and hosts year-round free-admission exhibits in The Gallery to support local artists and their craft. Annual events include the Whistler Children’s Festival, Whistler Street Entertainment, Arts Whistler Holiday Market, We Heart Local Art and Art on the Lake. Arts Whistler creates bold, inspiring and engaging experiences and supports an arts and culture sector in Whistler that’s welcoming, accessible and collaborative.


Get in Touch:

Website: artswhistler.com/utszan
Facebook: facebook.com/artswhistler
Twitter: @artswhistler
Instagram: @artswhistler
Hashtags: #ArtsWhistler #FallForArts


Media Contact:

Dee Raffo, Marketing & Communications Professional


Additional resources:

Partner groups:

Whistler Community Services Society mywcss.org | Whistler Blackcomb Foundation whistlerblackcombfoundation.com | Community Foundation of Whistler whistlerfoundation.com | Líl̓wat Nation lilwat.ca  | Dream Makers Literacy Coalition | Whistler Blackcomb whistlerblackcomb.com | BC Hydro  bchydro.com | Resort Municipality of Whistler  whistler.com |  Fairmont Foundation

Truth and Reconciliation resources:

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation nctr.ca
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada trc.ca


 Whistler is located within the unceded traditional territories of the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation

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