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One woman plays 12 roles

A one-person play exploring a woman's journey to reclaim her heritage will be performed in Hay River on Sept. 27.

Tiffany Ayalik of Yellowknife stars in Cafe Daughter, a one-person play that she will be performing in Hay River on Sept. 27. photo courtesy of Northern Arts and Cultural Centre

Based on the true story of neuroscientist and Senator Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, Cafe Daughter has been described as a powerful, funny and touching tale.

It was written by Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams and stars Northerner Tiffany Ayalik, who is also a 2017 Juno winner of Indigenous Album of the Year for her part in Quantum Tangle's Tiny Hands.

The play is being brought to Hay River as part of a tour by the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) in Yellowknife.

"It's an outstanding show," said Marie Coderre, executive and artistic director of NACC.

Prior to coming to Hay River, the play was performed in Fort Smith, Norman Wells, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Fort Simpson.

"Everybody has been extremely moved by it," said Coderre, who described the play as important to the history of Canada.

Ayalik brings to life 12 different characters in the play.

It tells the story of Yvette Wong, a girl of mixed heritage growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. Her father is Chinese and he runs a small-town cafe. Her mother is Cree.

When the girl is 10 years old, her mother makes her promise that she will never tell anyone she is Cree.

And she holds that secret close to her heart – until the moment she can no longer hide her heritage from herself.

"This is the only one woman show that I'm doing but it definitely doesn't feel like a one woman show because there's constantly 12 voices in my head," Ayalik said during a recent interview.

"It's a wonderful challenge as an actor because I have to, in an instant, drop into a completely different person's body and voice and mannerisms and everything on top of all the lines that I'm saying. I know that I've really grown as an actor doing this show because it asks so much of you."

Ayalik comes from what she calls a blended background, growing up with one Inuk parent and one non-Indigenous parent. Often faced with the question of 'what are you?' and at times overt racism in the form of slurs and graffiti, Ayalik said she can relate despite the gulf in time between
her and her character.

"It gives you the opportunity to see and to say OK, here's where we were in the '50s or the '60s, and then we get to ask ourselves 'has anything changed?,'" she said. "That's a very interesting mirror that period pieces give audiences."

– with files from Emelie Peacock