Photos by: Jeff Bierk
Directed by Ange Loft. Featuring Cherish Violet Blood, Iehente Foote, Dustin Frank, Rosina Kazi, Gilda Monreal, Simone Schmidt, and Ange Loft.
‘Don’t spend them all in one place’, the lady said. Curious, I took the five red kidney beans she held out for me as I walked into the new Jumblies Theatre on Fort York Blvd. I had checked the address three times on that sunny Sunday afternoon for the final show. I was sure we were in the wrong place. After all: there were no seats in the theatre, the room was dark, and full of regular people who did not appear to be actors.
My 11 year old son was delighted to see a craft area with people working and he joined the group. I hung out at the back to check out the scene. Above the craft table was a sign with a cryptic question on it: ‘what does this moment mean to you?” The lady gestured for me to craft as she smiled; I smiled back as I turned to check out a table on the far side of the room. Another group was gathered chatting happily with one another, heads bent over the table working. I went to investigate the group opposite the crafters and found them working on a large transparency banner with cardboard cutouts, artwork, and messages written in permanent marker. The banner, the facilitator explained, would be used in the production to answer the question: “How did we get to this point?” As my son completed his ‘masterpiece’ we sat down on two of the five chairs that were placed close to the door. Suddenly the lights dimmed again and a group of people clad in black clothing stood in the middle of the room.
‘After the fire’ presented messages inspired by a series of oral history interviews about the Idle No More Movement which was sparked by a suite of legislation aimed at dismantling First Nations sovereignty and environmental protections. I was feeling intrigued by the performance. The actors moved about the space performing monologues. As an audience member, I found myself gaping around the space as the conversation twisted, turned, and sang out across the room; a cacophony of voices expressing Indigenous experiences of activism and resistance. The drumming started. A round dance formed. My son and I took the hands of other audience members as performers led a round dance- the type of dancing that took place at Idle No More protests across the country. Joyfully, we bobbed along holding hands with the other patrons as we were led out one door into the bright sunshine and back inside the next.
We paid our beans to hear stories shared in a soap-box format that included a talking panda bear telling his story from a puppet theatre. We witnessed powerful spoken word performances; then saw our handy work slide by on the giant transparency banner projected onto the wall; a performer was ‘whitewashed’ with real paint. The performances were comical, somber, powerful and engaging. We witnessed individual stories inspired by the diversity of experiences and issues brought to light through the Idle No More Movement.
The performance ended with an action-oriented way for audience members to send postcards to a selection of government departments in which we were prompted to answer the question: “Where do you want to go from here?” Attending ‘After the fire’ was an enjoyable experience that stretched audience comfort zones while being super fun and interactive. Audience members were transformed from passive to active and certainly were NOT idle.