The Strathmore High School's (SHS) 'New Blood' production is in going into its ninth year of performances and director Deanne Bertsch is now preparing to take the shaw across Canada.

Set to the music of Peter Gabriel, New Blood shows the history of residential schools and reconciliation through dance, drama, and poetry. Based on the life of Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman, New Blood shows the history of residential schools and reconciliation through dance, drama, and poetry. Set to the music of Peter Gabriel, it explores the impact on Yellow Old Woman, who went into a residential school at the age of 5 and left 10 years later.

After several performances in Strathmore and the surrounding area over the last nine years, Bertsch decided now was a good time to bring the show to the National audience. In February, Bertsch and her cast of students will be travelling to Winnipeg. She explained Winnipeg was a great place to start because it's the birthplace of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the students will also be visiting and performing in the Human Rights Museum.

Bertsch is looking forward to sharing this story across Canada, as she says it can be a very moving experience for the audience.

"A lady came up to me (after a show in Calgary) and she was non-Indigenous and she said 'I've heard all about residential schools, I've read about it in the paper, I've heard about it in the news, but it wasn't until I saw this show that I actually felt why it's so huge for Indigenous people and why it was so traumatizing for them.' And I think that is what is so magical about theatre, it makes us feel something and makes us understand, so that woman now has empathy and understanding for the plight of Indigenous people and why residential schools were so impactful," Bertsch said.

Theatre has a way of communicating with the audience that other mediums can't quite match. While a movie can still deliver a compelling narrative and performance, being in the same room as the story unfolds is a way to involve the audience in a more intimate way.

While New Blood has had an impact on many audience members, Bertsch said it's also been a great experience for the students involved.

"I think that's the really special thing about this show, it's about Indigenous and non-Indigenous students coming together. Barriers come down, they gain greater understanding of each other, greater comfort of each other, friendships are formed, all sorts of great things happen among the students. And I think for the non-Indigenous students and myself, we've been given an amazing gift to understand Blackfoot history, to be welcomed into their community in different ways."

Even outside of the students directly involved, Bertsch said New Blood has had an impact on the entire school.

"One of my students who wasn't even in New Blood, she encouraged her parents to come to it last year, and she said it blew them away and opened up their minds and they saw things in a whole new light."

Bertsch explained one particularly powerful aspect of New Blood is getting people involved at a young age. By openly speaking about the impact of residential schools, the younger generation can go forward and create positive change and move forward with Truth and Reconciliation as they grow up. It also has students bringing the discussion to their parents and friends, which further raises awareness.

"There's so many people that keep coming back to see it, or bring their friends and family because it impacted them and they want people that they know to experience it as well."

The Winnipeg trip will be 5 days, and Bertsch said the school is currently fundraising. With the cost being $2000 a student and 30 students going, they're hoping to raise $60 000. After Winnipeg, New Blood will continue travelling, as they head to Saskatchewan in March and then will perform in the Jack Singer Concert Hall on June 14 and 15 with the Civic Symphony.

Join the cast of New Blood on Wednesday, November 30 at 7 pm as the perform at the Strathmore High School to help raise funds for their trip to Manitoba in February, the show is at 7 pm and tickets are $10 and available at the door. 

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