Kaleidoscope Theatre presents War of the Eagles at Fort Rodd Hill, May 25/26 2013.

Fort Rodd Hill stands in for wartime Prince Rupert in Kaleidoscope Theatre’s site-specific adaptation of Eric Walters multiple-award-winning children’s  of the Eagles (now part of the BC school curriculum).


Photo: Miles Lowry

Canadian history is rife with shameful incidents of colonization and racism, yet how do you translate them to a younger audience in a way that will resonate with their experiences?  War of the Eagles, despite some cultural and geographic inaccuracies (the author is from Ontario and admits to the difficulty of writing from outside a culture) opens the door to this not-so-distant past in a way that is relatable.

Set during the turbulent years at the beginning of World War II, WAR OF THE EAGLES investigates the consequent effects on First Nations and Japanese Communities on the remote BC coast. Exploring the themes of racism, cultural identity, impact on First Nations, Japanese internment and war, raises questions of what it is to be ‘Canadian’ in a time of conflict, and national identity at a critical time of international conflict.

It’s 1941 and the world is at war. While his father serves overseas, Jed moves back to his mothers Tsimshian community. Yet, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the deportation of the nearby Japanese Community Jed’s world is shattered. Alone Jed must ask himself where his allegiance really belongs, to his country’s rigid code, or to the truth that is buried in his Tsimshian soul. History Comes To Life.

The site at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites is stunning, with restored buildings dating from 1860 (the light) to the late 1800s (the fort); it was always one of my children’s favourite places to explore when they were growing up. Director Roderick Glanville has made full use of the upper and lower batteries, and canteen; the audience follows the action from place to place (stopping at one point to sit in a small outdoor theatre under tents).  I was at a school performance of attentive students who listened carefully for the full 90 minutes of the show.

No lighting or set design can compete with the buildings, lawns, beaches and blue skies overhead (mercifully the rain held off) to capture the imagination and whisk us back to another time.

The cast is comprised of emerging artists (Julian Cervello as Jedediah (Jed) Blackburn, a young Tsimshian/Canadian and Nicholas Yee as Tadashi Fukushima, a Nisei (2nd generation) Canadian of Japanese descent) and professionals (Christine Willes as Naani, Jed’s grandmother, Valerie Turner Sing as Naomi Blackburn, Jed’s mother, David Radford as Major  Brown, Garry Garneau – Smitty / Private Fletcher / Captain Stevenson and Jeffrey Flieler – Vet / George Star) who were more than equal to the task of projecting adequately in this very large outdoor space.

A significant character in the book is the injured eagle that Jed nurses back to health – Miles Lowry’s exquisite costume/puppet and mask design is remarkably life-like.

Although geared to younger audiences, there is plenty for adults to ponder in the storyline.  I grew up on the coast with the children and grandchildren of citizens who were interned during the war – they were able to come back, but many had nothing to come back to.  How do we honour and make restitution for a painful past?  What is it like, in an increasingly multi-cultural society, to live astride two or more cultures?

War of the Eagles marks the first time in recent history (Kaleidoscope has been producing work for young audiences for 38 years) that the company has staged a site-specific work. Given the quality of this show, we can only hope it will not be the last. Walters has written a sequel, Caged Eagles, that continues the story of Tadashi and his family after they are interned.

War of the Eagle a world premiere play adapted and directed by Roderick Glanville
based on the novel by Eric Walters, published by Orca Books

Staged at Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada – May 25 and May 26, 2013 at 11am and 2pm.

Tickets: Adult (17+) – $25.00  Youth (16 & Under) – $18.00
through the McPherson Box Office #3 Centennial Square, Victoria in person, by phone 250 386 6121 or online.

WAR OF THE EAGLES is an outdoor, wandering, site specific production that performs  regardless of weather. Parks Canada Site Admission Not Included ($3.90 for Adult / $1.90 for Youth)

Production Design by Miles Lowry, Wardrobe by Graham McMonagle, Stage Managed by Pat Rundell.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend War of the Eagles.  

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


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