Vernon high school students share dark part of Canadian history in locally produced play – Okanagan

Vernon high school students share dark part of Canadian history in locally produced play - Okanagan

Students at W.L. Seaton Secondary School in Vernon are unearthing the stories of the property their school now sits upon.

“The history is quite appalling and it’s a very little-known history of Canada,” said Lana O’Brien, 27th St. Theatre director. “It was a very interesting project to bring to the forefront.”

W.L. Seaton Secondary’s 27th St. Theatre is now performing Seeds of Hope, a play they researched and wrote as a team. The students are telling the stories of Canada’s prison camps that held internees from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most of the people held were Ukrainians and Germans during WWI because they were determined to be a threat. One of those was in Vernon from September 1914 to February 1920.

“Turning history into theatre is an interesting adventure.  I have done it a couple of times. I have also done a show about the Holocaust in the past. But we [always] start with a lot of research.”

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Students went so far as to interview the descendants of the men and women who were detained at the Vernon camp.

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Madison Erwin, a Grade 12 student, cast member and scriptwriter, interviewed one of the descendants of an internee.

“I asked her a question at the end of it asking ‘What is the most important thing for you as a direct descendent?’ ‘What do you want out of the show?’ and she said, ‘Just tell the story’,” Erwin said.

That’s exactly what the students are doing.

“We really tried to do was tell every side of the story,” Delaney O’Brien, Grade 12 student, cast member and scriptwriter said.

“We have all the internees in the camp, we have guards in the camp, a child who lives in the camp and a child who lives in Vernon, and we have my role who was a Vernon citizen who was pro camp.

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O’Brien also plays an internee.

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“I really got to experience both sides of the story,” O’Brien said.

What O’Brien found while delving deeper into Vernon’s history and her role shocked her.

“The camp really benefited Vernon’s economy and so many people in Vernon thought the camp was a good thing for Vernon.”

Due to the pandemic, they are streaming the play into people’s living room. Tickets are available by donation to stream the live play that is available to watch from until Jan. 31. For ticket information visit our website