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YES Theatre’s ‘1939’ opens in a few weeks

Play is set in a 20th-century residential school, where students are preparing a Shakespeare performance for the King

YES Theatre is set to open a new play at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in just a few weeks. After playing to sold out houses at the Stratford Festival, “1939” comes to Sudbury with a local cast directed by iconic Indigenous artist Jani Lauzon. 

Preparing for a visit by King George VI, students at a fictional Residential school in Northern Ontario are tasked with staging a production of Shakespeare’s “All’s Well that Ends Well.” But art can be a vehicle for self-expression and humour is a powerful form of resilience.

While a traditional and rigid approach to Shakespeare clashes with their perspectives, the Indigenous students begin to draw parallels between their own lives and the characters in the play. Discover alongside them themes of resilience and defiance against colonial expectations. As Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy is dissected. 1939 evolves

Not only is Jani Lauzon an award winning director but she is also a nine-time Dora Mavor Moore nominated actress, a three-time Juno nominated singer/songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer and an artist educator.

“Archival evidence shows us that Shakespeare was on reading lists reported by individual teachers at residential schools,” she said.

“As there were very few schools with libraries and curriculum was limited to elementary subjects, domestic service and agricultural skills (based on the assumption that Indigenous people were intellectually inferior), the books that were provided by individual instructors were from their personal collections. Some happened to be Shakespeare geeks, just like me, who believed that Indigenous students could read and perform Shakespeare. 

“No doubt the relationship with Shakespeare for some Indigenous people can be a complicated one. But my thought is: blame the system, not the artist.”

YES Theatre looks to the performances of 1939 as an opportunity to face some of the darkest truths in history when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous families. We understand the necessity of educating ourselves in regards to our nation’s past and what we can do to reflect, recover and take positive action moving forward.

1939 opens at Sudbury Theatre Centre on March 15. 

Tickets are available at $35 for youth and $53 for adults (+HST). 1939 is also included in the 2024 season pass which offers patrons 20 per cent of the entire season and access to the pass holder only event “A Night of Broadway,” featuring stars straight from the Broadway Stage. Head to or call the FCR Sudbury Theatre Centre Box Office.


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