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Art imitates life in Arviat

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Arviat (Nov 14/05) - Applause erupted from the audience as the young actors on stage celebrated a successful caribou hunt during the grand opening of the new Qitiqliq school building in Arviat this past month.

The young actors were starring in the dramatic presentation A Long Way in a Short Time.

The piece was written by Qitiqliq drama teacher Gord Billard, translated by senior drama students and performed in Inuktitut during the grand opening.

Using ongoing narrative, pantomime and a series of slide-show images, the production chronicled the progression of education in Arviat through the eyes of the parents and grandparents of a modern-day family on its way to the school's grand opening.

The production was so effective, Nunavut's directors and superintendents of education donated $300 to both the school drama club and choir to present an encore performance later in the month.

Billard says he got most of the information for the production from Inuit staff members at Qitiqliq school.

"They answered my questions or were able to direct me to the people who could," says Billard.

"I was also fortunate enough to have many older photos donated to the production.

"I tried to put them in chronological order so we would gain a sense of where we come from.

"The photos ranged from before Inuit contact with European culture, up to our beautiful new school building."

Arviat's elementary school is named after Levi Angmak, a former staff member at the federal day school that used to exist in the community.

Angmak is fondly remembered for his teaching abilities, and his habit of providing hot chocolate and cookies every morning.

"We had a little kid play Levi Angmak and, when he was identified in the story, the audience broke into tremendous applause because it was like he was there on the stage, among them again.

"That was truly a magical moment."

A number of Nunavut's educational leaders who viewed the show saw its potential as a teaching tool.

Billard was excited to learn the script may be used to aid future educators.

"There's been preliminary interest in some form of discussion on how to use the script as part of an orientation package for new teachers to the community.

"It would give them a better understanding of the educational situation they're coming into, and the milestone points of the history of education in this area."