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Text in the centre says "The Diviners Study Guide". On the left, Julie Lumsden. On the right, Irene Poole. Photography by Danny Shumov and Ted Belton.



The Diviners


The Diviners

Based on the novel by Margaret Laurence
Text by Vern Thiessen with Yvette Nolan
World Première
Directed by Krista Jackson with Geneviève Pelletier
Choreographed by Cameron Carver
House Program - coming soon!

The Study Guide for The Diviners was created in collaboration with the Office of Indigenous Relations, University of Waterloo with contributions from Dr. Sorouja Moll, Jessica Rumboldt and Summer Bressette as well as additional programming consultation with Elder Liz Stevens, Elder Jean Becker, Jay Havens, Emma Rain Smith and Robin Stadelbauer.

Grade Recommendation
Grade 9+

Content Advisory

The play explores mature subject matter including colonialism, racism and discrimination. There are references to domestic and child abuse. It also includes some drinking, sexual content and scenes of staged intimacy. Please see the show page for a detailed audience advisory.


Novelist Morag Gunn, estranged from her only daughter, unable to write, struggling with the bottle, is adrift in a river of memories. Travelling from the present to the past to an imagined future, Morag's journey encompasses her personal struggle for freedom and expression as well as those of the Métis and First Nations peoples of Manitoba. Adapted from Margaret Laurence's classic Canadian novel, The Diviners receives its world première at the Stratford Festival.

Curriculum Connections

Global Competencies

  • Citizenship, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Metacognition, Self-Awareness

Grade 9-12

  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit Studies
  • Indigenous Languages
  • The Arts
  • Canadian and World Studies
  • English
  • Technological Education

Grade 11-12

  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Suitable for courses in disciplines such as Arts, Canadian Studies, Cultural Studies, Creative Writing, Drama or Theatre, English, Fine Arts, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Studies, Gender Studies, History, Human Rights, Indigenous Studies, Religious Studies, Social Development Studies, and Teacher Education.



  • Ancestry and Generational Relationships
  • Circles and Cycles
  • Class and Rural and Urban Contexts
  • Colonialism, Racism and Discrimination
  • Family, Mothers and Daughters
  • Feminism, Gender and Agency
  • The Human Need for Connection
  • Language, Story and Identity
  • Loneliness and Isolation
  • Love
  • Memory and Trauma
  • Métis Identity, Music and Culture
  • The Power of Water and Nature, and How They Move Us
  • The Relationship between Past, Present and Future
  • Revelation and Reclamation
  • Secrecy and Shame
  • Self-Discovery and Acceptance
  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • Writing and Writers





  • What do you already know about Métis identity, music and culture? Where did you learn this? What else would you like to learn?
  • In the play's prologue, a river is compared to a Métis sash. Using this suggested resource and others, learn about the origin story of the Métis sash. How might the symbolism of a river be connected to the sash?
  • What is the role of memories? How do memories shape our experiences on a day-to-day basis?
  • Why do our "roots" matter? In what ways do ancestry and intergenerational relationships influence people's sense of place, belonging and identity?
  • What is your understanding of the relationship between past, present and future?
  • In The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, Thomas King says: "The truth about stories is, that's all we are." What does this mean to you? Do you agree? Explain why or why not.
  • Think about the recurring stories in your life. Do you believe that the stories you retell yourself or that you hear repeatedly about you shape your identity? Why or why not?
  • Why might parents keep the truth from their children? Do you think it's ever okay for adults to keep secrets from children? Explain your thinking.
  • How would you define "colonialism," "racism," and "discrimination"? In what ways do you expect these might be a part of this play?
  • This play is an adaptation of Margaret Laurence's novel by the same title, which was published in 1974 and is a new retelling that is collaboratively created. In what ways does this respond to the 83rd Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Why might it be important for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to work together on artistic projects? How could projects like this contribute to the reconciliation process?
  • There have been repeated attempts to ban Margaret Laurence's original novel and to prevent young people from reading it in school. Do you think it is important that young people are able to make their own choices about what they want to read? Should books ever be banned? Explain your position.
  • Reflect on your own experiences with coming-of-age stories. How do you expect this play to explore the journey from adolescence to adulthood?


  • What did you feel as you entered the theatrical space? How did the pre-show and music affect your experience of the play? If you have seen other plays, compare this to your other theatrical experiences. Why do you believe the artists chose to incorporate a pre-show?
  • Think about Morag's journey travelling from the present to the past to an imagined future. In what ways did this journey reflect her struggle for freedom and expression?
  • At what point does Morag's journey illustrate the human need for connection?
  • Morag could not write and was aimlessly lost in a river of memories. How did her memories impact her work as an artist?
  • Margaret Laurence, the writer of the novel on which the play is based, and Morag Gunn, the protagonist, are not of Métis heritage. What implications might this have for Métis representation in this play? In this adaptation, what choices might the intercultural creative team have made to centre the Métis characters, culture and experiences?
  • How does Morag's journey connect to the struggles for freedom and expression for the Métis and First Nations peoples in Manitoba?
  • Revisit your definitions of "colonialism," "racism," and "discrimination." In what ways did The Diviners reveal the impact of these? Include examples from the play.
  • Look up the definition for the word "diviners" and consider its multiple meanings. Thinking back on your experience of this play, how do these definitions connect? How does this convergence of meaning contribute to the play's themes?
  • What do the characters learn about family and home? How do their feelings about this change from the beginning to the end of the play? Share examples to support your thinking.
  • Why did Jules refuse to sing "God Save the King"? Consider the lyrics and history of the anthem.
  • Throughout the play, we see that Morag and Pique are at a delicate place of transition in their relationship. What responsibility does Morag have to her daughter in helping her find answers? What, if anything, do you think each of these characters could have done differently in relation to one another?
  • Are there any unintentional harms that might be caused through the production of this play? If so, what are they and what might be done to take care of the artists and audience members participating in the work?


River Stories
Offered by Dr. Sorouja Moll

Objective: Students will explore their histories, personal narratives, communities and sense of belonging, culminating in the creation of a collaborative visual representation with the aim of deepening their understanding of community, empathy and the interplay between personal stories and collective identity.


  • Dean Atta's I Come From
  • "I Come From" Poem Template
  • Writing utensils and paper and/or computer access
  • Student photos or drawings of themselves
  • Large pieces of craft paper (approx. 4 ft.) cut into long, winding, curvy pieces ("river") - one/student
  • Large, uneven craft paper circle ("bay")


  1. Invite students to create a short poem about where they come from using poet Dean Atta's I Come From as a point of inspiration. Invite students to use the I Come From poem template as a way of structuring/beginning their writing. (Before they begin writing, let them know they will be asked to share at least a few lines, so should be mindful of creating something they are comfortable sharing.)
  2. Ask students to draw or share a photo of themselves that they would be willing to share.
  3. Provide each student with their "river."
  4. Invite them to write sections from their poem on their river. They may choose to add drawings as well.
  5. Position the large paper bay in the centre of the space. Completed rivers will be attached as if flowing into the bay. The rivers can converge into the central paper bay from any side.
  6. Invite students to paste their photos of themselves in the central bay.
  7. Decide as a classroom community where you want to display your community river.
  8. Invite students, as they wish, to share (parts of) their poems with one another.

 Debriefing Questions:

  • How did creating your poem make you feel?
  • If you chose to do so, did anything surprise you or stand out to you while sharing your story with your classmates?
  • How did seeing and hearing everyone's stories impact you?
  • In what ways do you think sharing personal stories like these can help build a stronger sense of community in our classroom?
  • Have you ever heard "all my relations"? What does this Indigenous worldview mean? How might it connect to how we think about family, where we come from and where we belong?

Possible Extensions:

Research Project

Have students delve deeper into the historical context and cultural communities of where they live by creating a digital, interactive piece. Students might explore factors such as political events, economic conditions, or cultural changes that influenced their community's history. Collecting images and pieces of text, students can present their research.

Creative Writing

Encourage students to expand on a specific event or aspect of their family story they are curious about and would be willing to share through a fictionalized narrative. This could involve imagining scenes or dialogue based on historical or personal details, offering a deeper exploration in the vein of The Diviners.


Exploring Christi Belcourt's The Wisdom of the Universe
Offered by Summer Bressette

Objective: Students will explore Christi Belcourt's painting, The Wisdom of the Universe, as a way to engage in new thinking about Métis culture and artistry.



  1. Begin with Christi Belcourt's painting projected on the wall. (Do not yet share the title of the painting.)
  2. Lead students through Facing History's "See, Think, Wonder" strategy to guide students' analysis.
  3. Then, ask students to identify as many plants and animals as they can in the piece.
  4. Share that the piece depicts 220 species of plants and animals in Southwestern Ontario that are extinct or nearing extinction. Many of these are medicinal plants.
  5. Share the title of the piece and ask students to reflect on and respond to the following in discussion as a class, in small groups or individually:
    • Why do you think this piece be called The Wisdom of the Universe?
    • What do you notice about the form and style of the painting?
    • What do you notice about the amount of symmetry in the piece?
    • How might the symmetry be reflective of the title of the painting and the intentions of the artist?
  6. Share the Art Gallery of Ontario's video about commissioning The Wisdom of the Universe.
    • How did watching this video and learning about Christi Belcourt as a Métis artist confirm, challenge or provide new thinking about the painting and about Métis culture?

 Debriefing Questions:

  • In what ways does experiencing this painting prompt new thinking about your responsibility toward the universe? What might it look like to have empathy for plants and animals? How might empathy be a step toward reconciliation?
  • In what ways did the title of the painting, along with the artist's intention, align with or challenge your initial impressions of the artwork? 

Possible Extensions:

Nature Walk

Take a nature walk and see if you come across anything identifiable from the painting, researching which of these are medicinal plants and, if so, how they are used.

Revitalizing Flora and Fauna

It is not only people who have been displaced and harmed by colonialism. Take time to learn about other plant or animal species impacted by colonization, such as the pawpaw fruit. Look into the pawpaw revitalization project by Dan Bissonnette of Windsor, Ontario. How does it make you feel to know that a fruit is nearly extinct from this area because of deforestation? Discuss the broader implications of human actions on biodiversity and ecosystems.

Visual Art by Meryl McMaster

Conduct the same exercise as above with a Meryl McMaster photograph such as Do You Remember Your Dreams. McMaster's work is a key visual art inspiration for The Diviners creative team.

Becoming Better Treaty Partners: Relationships Between Indigenous and Settler Communities

Examine relationships between Indigenous and settler communities. For example, since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have seen incredible solidarity between Indigenous and Ukrainian communities, a symbol of which is the kokum scarves. Read the following article by Brian Forrester at APTN. What struck you about this story? What other stories about relationships between Indigenous and settler communities do you know or might you learn about? How might these stories influence settlers to become better treaty partners?


In 2023, the Stratford Festival produced Frances Koncan's Women of the Fur Trade which, like The Diviners, includes a focus on Métis culture and played with past and present. Koncan's play also explored the relationship between the past, present and future, but in contrast, did so through humour, historical satire and purposeful anachronism.

Women of the Fur Trade, 2023

Kathleen MacLean as Marie-Angelique with Joelle Peters as Eugenia (left) and Jenna-Lee Hyde as Cecilia (right) in Women of the Fur Trade, 2023. Photograph by David Hou.


The Stratford Festival's Archives maintains, conserves and protects records about the Festival and makes those materials available to people around the world. Their collection contains material ranging from 1952 right up to the present and includes administrative documents, production records, photographs, design artwork, scores, audio-visual recordings, promotional materials, costumes, props, set decorations and much more. These materials are collected and preserved with the aim of documenting the history of the Festival, preserving the page-to-stage process, and capturing the creative processes involved in numerous other activities that contribute to the Festival each season.



Study Guide PDF

Stratford Public Library's The Diviners Reading List


Study Guides

View Study Guides for selected 2024 plays along with those from previous seasons free of charge on our website.



Barkwell, L.J. and Audreen Hourie. "Métis Clothing," in Métis Legacy Vol. II: Michif Culture, Heritage, and Folkways. 2006.

Clan Gunn | Scots Connection

Colonialism and its Impact (2016) | The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women

Gabriel Dumont Institute Virtual Museum of Métis Culture and History

Language and Identity | Facing History & Ourselves Canada

Keating, William. Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peter's River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods & etc. in the year 1823. 1824.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. 2003.

Métis Culture & Traditions | Rupertsland Institute

Troupe, Cheryl. Expressing Our Heritage: Métis Artistic Designs, Resource Manual. 2002.

Offered by Members of The Diviners Creative Team of Krista Jackson, Yvette Nolan, Geneviève Pelletier and Vern Thiessen

Andrina Turenne - Musician and Composer for 2024 World Première of The Diviners

Campbell, Maria. Halfbreed. 2019.

Etchiboy - Métis Fashion

Iwama, Marilyn, et al. Two-Eyed Seeing and the Language of Healing in Community-Based Research. 2009.

Kostash, Myrna. The Seven Oaks Reader. 2016.

Laurence, Margaret. Dance on the Earth: A Memoir. 1989.

Laurence, Margaret. The Diviners. 1974.

Margaret Laurence, First Lady of Manawaka | National Film Board

The Margaret Laurence Home | Neepawa Tourism

Margaret Laurence House | Provincial Heritage Sites, Government of Manitoba

Margaret Laurence Writes The Diviners | CBC Interview

Meryl McMaster - Visual Artist and Inspiration for 2024 World Première of The Diviners

Métis Jig | Mikey Harris, TikTok

Teillet, Jean. The North-West is Our Mother: The Story of Louis Riel's People, the Métis Nation. 2021.

Wente, Jesse. Unreconciled. 2022.

The women behind the first Michif-French dictionary | Kayla Rosen, CTV News Winnipeg

World Virtual Indigenous Circle on Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge


Booking Information: Student Matinées, InterACTive Preshows, Workshops & Chats

Student Matinées

You may book any available date, but selected student matinée performances for this show are at 2 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Thursday, September 12
  • Tuesday, September 17
  • Thursday, September 19
  • Wednesday, September 25
  • Friday, September 27
  • Tuesday, October 1
  • Wednesday, October 2

InterACTive Preshows

Led by artists appearing in the matinée, these high-energy sessions provide students the opportunity to explore key themes, questions and technical aspects of productions on the Festival's renowned stages. $4 per student (free for Teaching Stratford Program participants)

11 a.m.-noon on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, September 17
  • Thursday, September 19
  • Wednesday, September 25
  • Friday, September 27
  • Tuesday, October 1
  • Wednesday, October 2

For more information, visit


Workshops & Chats

Workshops and Chats (virtual, onsite or at your school/centre) can be booked by calling the Box Office at 1.800.567.1600 or by emailing

Pre-Show Workshops customized to your students' needs and interests are available from 10-11 a.m. or 11 a.m.-noon before selected matinées. $10 per student. For more information, visit

Half-Hour Post-Show Chats with cast and creative team members are available after selected matinées. $3 per student. For more information, visit




Tools for Teachers includes InterACTive Preshows, Study Guides and Stratford Shorts.       



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