Scene from dance production, Native Girl Syndrome | Image Source: Marc J. Chalifoux (nativeearth.ca)
Storytelling and dance are revered tradition within Indigenous cultures which have evolved to include multidisciplinary performance and theatre. Scanning the landscape of the diverse body of works in production now, it appears that Indigenous theatre is at an all time high. Here are seven compelling Indigenous theatre performances to know about.
1. Café Daughter by Kenneth T. Williams: November 26- December 6
Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and Workshop West Theatre, Edmonton AB
Incredibly intelligent Yvette Wong helps out her parents in their cafe, yet is put in the ‘slow learners’ class in school because of her skin colour. Afterwards her mother tells her to keep her Cree heritage a secret so that she may create a better future for herself. This story is based on the true story of Senator Lillian Eva Quan Dyck. Williams is a Cree playwright from George Gordon First Nations in Saskatchewan who spent 15 years in journalism before taking a turn at theatre. Since then he has written Thunderstick, Bannock Republic, Gordon Winter, Three Little Birds and Cafe Daughter, all which have been professionally produced across Canada.
Huff follows the dark journey of protagonist, Wind and his two brothers, as they cope with the suicide of their mother by means of solvent abuse. The solo production saw Cardinal portray about a dozen characters; his performance was poignant, uncompromising and strong. This is presented in partnership with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Cardinal is a playwright and performer who has written plays such as Huff, Stitch and now Sidewalk Chalk. He made his acting debut in Freeman’s Wake, written by Yvette Nolan.
3. Going Home Star by Joseph Boyden and Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Tour dates: rwb.org
Featuring the music of Tanya Tagaq and Steve Wood, The Northern Cree Singers and The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Going Home Star explores the world of a contemporary, young First Nations woman who meets a trickster disguised as a homeless man. Together they walk through the past toward the future, learning to accept each other’s burdens and that without truth, there is no reconciliation. Boyden is a Métis novelist and short-story writer who is widely known for his works Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce and The Orenda. His writings focuses mainly on the experiences of First Nations people in Northern Ontario.
4. 24 Hour Playmaking Cabaret: It’s Alive by various playwrights: December 3, 2015
High Country Inn Deck, Whitehorse YK
For 24 hours, a set of intrepid play makers will lock themselves away in rooms at a local inn and do nothing but let creativity devour their brains. They are now ready to share the results of their efforts with the world at the 24 Hour Play Making Cabaret. 24 Hour production manager, Amber Church is a sports enthusiasts, painter, writer and freelance writer for What’s Up Yukon.
5. Luu Hlotitxw: Spirit Transforming by Dancers of Damelehamid: April 21-23, 2016
Native Earth Performing Arts, Toronto ON
Spirit Transforming explores and celebrates the essence of who Aboriginal people are and what that transcends through powerful, traditional and contemporary dance. The performance shares the journey of the rebirth of an Aboriginal youth who passes through trials and tribulations to become transformed. Dancers of Damelehamid is based out of the northwest coast of British Columbia that create spellbinding performances through dramatic dance, captivating narrative, intricately carved masks and elaborate regalia.
6. Native Girl Syndrome by Lara Kramer: April 21-23, 2016
Native Earth Performing Arts, Toronto ON
Native Girl Syndrome is a raw theatrical performance that dives into street culture as the two performers, Karina Iraola and Angie Cheng, takes the audience on a dynamic journey of addiction, loss and alienation. Kramer is a First Nations artistic director and choreographer based out of Montreal. She is known for creating performances that examine the political issues surround First Nations people in Canada.
Tomson Highway’s play features charming post mistress, Marie-Louise, who has the uncanny ability to see the lives and stories behind each sealed letter that she touches. Highway is the musical director and will be performing on the piano. Two-spirited, Cree playwright Tomson Highway, was born in a snowbank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters. Today he is a celebrated playwright, novelist, and pianist/songwriter.