A significant moment in Canadian history is portrayed in this documentary musical about race relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Weaving hundreds of real interviews conducted with Saskatchewan residents and the court transcripts surrounding the killing of Colten Boushie and trial of Gerald Stanley, a kaleidoscopic picture is formed of the views of the incident, the province, and Indigenous people in Canada.
Reasonable Doubt—with interviews by Joel Bernbaum, music by Lancelot Knight, and dramaturgy by Yvette Nolan—provides a space to honestly talk to each other about what has happened on this land and how we can live together.
About the authors
Joel Bernbaum is an actor, director, playwright, journalist, and the founding artistic director of Sum Theatre. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Joel is the only child of a Buddhist mother and Jewish father. He is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and Carleton University, where he did his master’s thesis on verbatim theatre’s relationship to journalism. With Sum Theatre, Joel created Saskatchewan’s first free professional live Theatre in the Park. To date, over 50,000 people have participated in Sum Theatre’s work. Joel’s produced plays include Operation Big Rock, My Rabbi (with Kayvon Khoshkam), Home Is a Beautiful Word, and Being Here: The Refugee Project. Joel is currently an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student at the University of Saskatchewan, investigating the potential of theatre to strengthen cities. He is grateful to be the first Urjo Kareda Resident from Saskatchewan and the first Pierre Eilliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar from the University of Saskatchewan. Joel lives in Saskatoon with his six-year-old son, Judah.
Yvette Nolan is a playwright, dramaturge, and director. In 1996, she was the Aboriginal Writer-in-Residence at Brandon University, where she wrote the first draft of Annie Mae’s Movement. Her other plays include BLADE, Job’s Wife, Video, the libretto Hilda Blake, and the radio play Owen. She is also the editor of Beyond the Pale: Dramatic Writing from First Nations Writers and Writers of Colour and co-editor of Refractions: Solo and Refractions: Scenes. She was the president of Playwrights Union of Canada from 1998–2001, and of Playwrights Canada Press from 2003–2005. Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to an Algonquin mother and an Irish immigrant father, raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she lived in the Yukon and Nova Scotia before moving to Toronto.
Excerpt: Reasonable Doubt (by (author) Joel Bernbaum, Lancelot Knight & Yvette Nolan)
ROSE and RALPH, 70s, CAUCASIAN
ROSE: (lip smack) Predominately a lot of German people here. Uhh... but in the last while we've had... peo-other nationalities moving in. We've got ahh... restaurant downtown that's operated by a Chinese lady, Uh... the Red Bull is now operated by people from Korea, South Korea. And uh... yeah so and we've-we've got some Native people living here, y'know. They're either adopted kids or-
RALPH: VERY few though!
(Speaking at the same time)
RALPH: Jus-Just the small small thing. And-and there's no reserves around here.
ROSE: Very few yeah! There is-is a few yeah. Yeah.
RALPH: We should make mention, ORIGINALLY this area was preDOMINANTly German with a-wida nice mixture of Ukrainians. They called the offsprings Gerainians. (laughs) Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh. But-but now as Rose had mentioned because the influx of new people and affordable housing. Uh..there's a lot of…
ROSE: Intermarriages! We have a little bit of everything here right now. Well intermarriages you know. The women are Native and their children are Native... living with a white. There's about three-three Native families here in town. That I can think of-
RALPH: PARTIAL Natives! (laughs) Heh Heh.
A Grade 5 Classroom
SAM, 11, CAUCASIAN
RUBY, 11, CAUCASIAN
SAM: The whole uhm whole Colten Boushie Gerald Stanley thing uhm... I don't really have a side exactly uhm yeah. Colten Boushie was-was an-and some friends were really drunk and then they went- they were going around an making mischief and then Gerald Stanley I guess was trying to protect his family and-an shot Colten Boushie.
RUBY: I think skin colour DID matter but it SHOULDN'T have mattered. Because ehm like I dunno if it was a white man, he might not have been shot because a lot o- that's another stereotype, a lot of indig-indigenous people like ON the streets are... assumed to be dangerous.
KAT, 11, CAUCASIAN
KAT: I was... listening as my dad and his girlfriend fought about it. Uhm... cause they both disagreed about if he was guilty or not and uhm... my dad was saying that he wasn't and that he was just doing it to protect his home and family and because they WERE trying to steal something from him, well that's what he said that they were trying to steal like his truck or his quad or something an his girlfriend said well, if someone was coming for your quad would you have... the guts to shoot him? And he said Yeah! I paid a lot of money for that!
RALPH: This will stand out as one of the four uh... significant trials ever held in this province. And of course, the first one was Louis R-Riel way back when and then it was Colin Thatcher uh... Robert Latimer and then this one. And uh... y'know I-I didn't realize that I was f-front row seat to such a historic trial. You had to shake your head once in a while to realize this is the real thing. History was unfolding it-itself before your eyes. What we found interesting in fact I'm going to share this with you ahh… is that I had Gerald Stanley's father phoned me here a couple days ago. Friday evening.
ROSE: Well you're jumping ahead now.
RALPH: Yes! I'm jumping ahead! He phoned me to thank ahh me an-an Rose and our son that was attending our family for supporting them. But here is something that he shared with me and that is that after the first couple days of trial.
ROSE: Is that to be shared I wonder?
RALPH: I think so! Because I mean you will decide how to decipher it. Is that... the Star Phoenix wasn't doing justice to the coverage. He said-
(Speaking at the same time)
ROSE: He felt it was one-sided.
RALPH: He said-Very one sided!
RALPH: INITIALLY came out that these uhh.... Native, I think we're supposed to call them aboriginals.
RALPH: Indigenous, YES! Indigenous. Uh... youth! Were innocently swimming they had a flat tire, they called in for help and he took a gun and shot em. Ah… this-this was uh… y'know the message that was out there. And when uh the-they came up... to testify by this time uhh they... they were telling, spilling their guts, they were telling it EXACTLY what happened. And yet... it seemed like the next paper didn't cover any of this.
“At no point can the audience find refuge in the notion that this is only a play, only a script. Every line was actually spoken by someone Bernbaum interviewed.”
Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail
“Verbatim theatre usually does a good job of putting the audience in the shoes of the people speaking, but Reasonable Doubt puts you in your own shoes and makes you deal with the mud splattered across them.”
Matt Olson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Other titles by Yvette Nolan
Gabriel Dumont's Wild West Show
New Essays on Canadian Theatre Volume 5
Indigenous Performance Culture
Indigenous Performance Culture
Almighty Voice and His Wife
Beyond the Pale, revised edition
Dramatic Writing from First Nations Writers and Writers of Colour