Rita Joe is a Native girl who leaves the reservation for the city, only to die on skid row as a victim of white men’s violence and paternalistic attitudes towards First Nations peoples. As perhaps the best-known contemporary Canadian play and a poetic drama of enormous theatrical power, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe had a major influence in awakening consciousness to the “Indian problem” both in whites and Natives themselves.
Cast of five women and 15 men. With a preface by Chief Dan George.
The Ecstasy of Rita Joe premiered November 23, 1967 at the Vancouver Playhouse.
About the author
In 1967, George Ryga soared to national fame with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which has since evolved into a modern classic. A self-proclaimed artist in resistance, Ryga takes the role of a fierce and fearless social commentator in most of his plays, and his work is renowned for its vivid and thrilling theatricality. George Ryga died of stomach cancer in Summerland, BC, in 1987 and will always be remembered and cherished as one of Canada’s most prolific and powerful writers. His memory was publicly honoured at the BC Book Prizes ceremony in 1993.
James Hoffman is a Professor of Theatre at the University College of the Cariboo, located in Kamloops, BC, and the editor of the scholarly journal Textual Studies in Canada. His research interests include Canadian theatre studies, post-colonial theory and the history and culture of theatre in BC. A recent notable production was of Nootka Sound; or, Britain Prepar’d, an eighteenth-century work which Hoffman himself labels as “British Columbia’s first play.”
“George Ryga has taken the human experience, which in this case is Canadian only by the accident of destiny, distilled it through his fine sense of compassion and given it to us … as an act of communion in which our own participation is inescapable.”
“Rita Joe was a landmark in more ways than one. It was—and remains—a play for all seasons and for all peoples.”
— Vancouver Province
“Scenes of shattering impact, genuine and true, and passages of a purity and intensity that catch you off guard and keep you there. As for author Ryga, his is obviously just the kind of disruptive influence we need.”
“I can only say that I sat there for two hours and was profoundly moved by something that tugged far more penetratingly at my heart strings, and far more urgently than any intellectual exercise I may have been willing to submit to …” — Montreal Gazette