Playwright uses Kitimat as inspiration for play

A stage play about pipeline politics and Kitimat will be performed in April in California.

When Kitimat voted in April in a plebiscite which would set the course for the District of Kitimat on the Northern Gateway proposal, certainly not many thought that the community’s experience would be acted out on stage at a college at the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Yet here we are, and the play “Kitimat” has just finished its early stage readings, ahead of final performances in April.

The college’s website describes the play this way: Three generations of an Azorean Portuguese family must decide on their future when they are asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a proposed pipeline project.

The playwright is Elaine Avila, who lives in the Lower Mainland and has spent a lot of time in Kitimat, both in researching her play and for her past work.

She came through Kitimat in the 1990s with Theatre BC, coaching plays from Prince Rupert to Williams Lake.

She was interviewed at that time by a news crew and through that learned Kitimat, at least at a time, had 40 per cent or so people from Portugal.

Her own grandfather is from the Azores, so the statistic got her attention.

“So ever since I’ve been interested in Kitimat,” she said.

Later she got an assignment through the Vancouver Observer to write about a northern town — Kitimat — and while compiling her information for that she heard from a university in California.

“While I was writing this article this university in Los Angeles called to commission me to write an

environmental play,” she said. “And I thought ‘oh, I think I’m actually researching this play.’”

She got the university to commission a trip up to Kitimat for her and she spent time learning people’s stories.

“I went to the Luso hall and I volunteered to cook with the Portuguese ladies…so all of these residents would stop by while we were cooking and tell me stories, because they knew I was writing this play.”

She also spent time in the outdoors with the Kitimat naturalists and took on the task on understanding why people came to Kitimat and how new generations of Kitimatians were affected by Kitimat being in a sharp decline in 2007, and now in a sharp incline with new industry development.

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