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Culture clash in River Heights

Prairie Theatre Exchange’s upcoming comedy, Social Studies, set in local neighbourhood

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Richie Diggs is starring in Social Studies, his first professional role.

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Richie Diggs is starring in Social Studies, his first professional role. Photo Store

Richie Diggs’ experiences as an immigrant to Canada, and those of his friends, are informing his latest theatrical role.

Diggs, 25, is starring in Social Studies, a comedy based right in River Heights which will run at the Prairie Theatre Exchange Nov. 21 to Dec. 8. The play, written by playwright and actress Trish Cooper, is about a recently-separated woman, Jackie (played by Alix Sobler), who moves back home to find that her mother has taken in a Sudanese "Lost Boy" named Deng, who she thinks is very different from her.

"You get to find a lot of humour in it, the play is very funny, and you get to see that they aren’t so different after all," Diggs said. "It’s inner-city culture, and further into the suburbs in River Heights, coming together. Which, as we know, doesn’t happen very often."

Diggs plays the role of Deng. He said he can relate to his character because he and his family moved from Liberia when he was 10. They hopped from country to country in hopes of finding peace and safety away from Liberia’s civil war.

"There are some similarities between myself and my character and that has helped me tell the story better," Diggs said.

Diggs’ family moved to the inner city, where he became friends with many Sudanese Lost Boys. The term refers to a group of displaced Sudanese children.

Since 1983, the conflict in southern Sudan between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Sudanese government has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced many others, according to UNICEF’s website (http://www.unicef.org). At least 20,000 children, mostly boys between the ages of seven and 17, were displaced.

Though Diggs is not from Sudan, he understood the plight of the Sudanese Lost Boys after attending school and playing basketball with many of them at Gordon Bell High School.

This is Diggs’ first professional role, and the University of Winnipeg theatre program graduate said he’s very excited about it.

"It’s going very well," said Diggs, adding he is learning a lot. "Sometimes it feels like a university class . . . You would think having high school experience, or you think talent will carry you, but talent only goes so far until you find you need some more advanced strategies."

Having the play based in Winnipeg adds another layer to the project.

"We have a healthy theatre culture in the community," Diggs said. "So it wasn’t going to be long before this would happen. Now it has."

To buy tickets, or to find out more about Social Studies, visit www.pte.mb.ca.

"Come see the play," Diggs said. "You will be very impressed by it, you’ll be in stitches most of the time, you will be touched, and it will inform your own philosophy of life, especially going into a challenging rest of the 21st century."

Facebook.com/TheSouwesterWPG
Twitter: @souwesterWPG

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