Peace Country gives city dwellers an insight into the climate change realities facing small towns north of SM

Peace Country cast photographed by Sewari Campillo Photography (left to right): Sofía Rodríguez, Montserrat Videla, Sara Vickruck, Kaitlyn Yott, Garvin Chan

By: Jocelyn Stevens, SFU student

As a former resident of a small northern SM town, I was intrigued by the concept country of peace and was surprised at the emotional impact and connectedness of the drama. Written and directed by SFU alumni Pedro Chamale, country of peace reveals the clash of narratives he was born and raised in Chetwynd, BC. The play is a Rice and Beans Theater production and is presented by the Shadbolt Center for the Arts from April 27–30. me really amazed at how well the drama portrays northern SM and the challenges that come with living there.

Chamale is inspired by reflections on his youth and his family’s experiences in the Peace Area as a Latino. Encouraging socio-political change, drama follow five friends and them growth in the Peace Area. country of peace raises the challenges that come with trying to make it in a small town, from being belittled by Canadian urban cities to trying to make ends meet, all in the midst of a changing climate.

I am happy to see the meaningful land recognition and welcome made by Quelemia Sparrow before starting the game. Alongside this, players and stories represent various marginalized communities — such as queers and BIPOC people. The drama center on life of two sisters (Sofía Rodríguez and Montserrat Videla) and their friends (Sara Vickruck, Garvin Chan, and Kaitlyn Yott). Despite their differences, the five friends become close and endure common hardships such as loss, racism, and homophobia. The drama revolves back between past and present where they find themselves having to navigate the return of one of their friendss, is now a newly elected member of parliament from the green party.

The drama touched some harsh reality faced by many people. A number of example these include: local coffee shops cannot stay open with well-known brands taking customers, sudden increase and decrease in population due to pipe, and Indigenous community still not included in the discussion about environmental change.

During my interview with Chamale, I asked him what he ended up making Country of Peace. He realized that the catastrophic effects of climate change were already occurring in the north of BC on a much larger scale than in the city center.

“I started researching climate change and the climate crisis we are experiencing now [ . . . ] and then realized that many of my friends and family depend on the resource industry,” Chamale said. “We, the world, need everything to change so we can stop this climate crisis or try to reduce it if we haven’t gotten too far.”

When asked about the conflict between the climate emergency and jobs in northern BC, Chamale discussed the need for sustainable solutions that take care of people in industry in the north as well.

“It’s the big companies that don’t care about people because of the capitalistic advantages and capitalism we live in.” He continued, “We are subject to that system and so how do we talk about these differences that only radicalize so many people?”

country of peace captures what seem like positive, innocent moments as kids grow up with friends, going back and forth between the past and the present, which makes me curious about what kind of scene will happen next. Transition between scenes clearly contrasts this positive energy with heavy, frightening breaths — as if to make the viewer uncomfortable. I see the contrast between scenes and transitions as the simultaneity of everyday life and the climate crisis.

I was emotionally struck by the characters’ personal stories, especially Melissa’s (Sara Vickruck) solo monologue, where they talked about the difficulties of being the only weirdo openly in a small town. They touched on the loneliness and lack of support available to LGBTQ2S+ people who fit into their identities. This resonated with me and my friends as we left our small town due to the same struggles and finally found acceptance in urban cities.

Chamale hopes viewers will feel inspired to take political action such as writing letters to lawmakers or attending rallies.

“Ask for this fair transition, ask our politicians for real courage to make real change.” He added, “Providing people who need to get out of the industry doesn’t just knock them down like dead weights.”

This drama is supported by Playwright Dan Theater Center encouragement International Performing Arts Festival. To find out more about Peace Country brought to you by the Rice and Beans Theatre, check them out Instagram or website. To follow Pedro Chamale’s work, follow him on Instagram.

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