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Welcome Keith Barker, New Artistic Director


Native Earth Performing Arts has appointed Keith Barker, acclaimed Métis theatre artist as the new Artistic Director, announced the Native Earth Board of Directors today.

“We are delighted to welcome Keith Barker as the new Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. In addition to his experience as an actor, director, playwright, and theatre administrator, Keith brings a wealth of knowledge of Indigenous theatre across Canada. We look forward to Keith’s vision and leadership as Native Earth enters the company’s 35th year as Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous theatre company.”

Keith Barker is originally from Northwestern Ontario and has worked in professional theatre for 16 years. He has had a decade-long relationship with Native Earth, which began as an Artistic Associate in 2007 with past Artistic Director Yvette Nolan. Between 2007 and 2010, he worked extensively with Native Earth’s Young Voices Program, now called the Animikiig Training Program. He has participated as playwright, performer, director and dramaturg for Native Earth’s annual festival of Indigenous works, Weesageechak Begins to Dance, where his award-winning play The Hours That Remain had its first public reading.

A graduate of the George Brown College Theatre School, some of Barker’s performances include Native Earth’s productions of Tombs of a Vanishing Indian (Native Earth/Red Diva Productions) and Death of a Chief (Native Earth/NAC), as well as King Lear with the National Arts Centre.

As a playwright, Barker has been the recipient of the Saskatchewan’s SATAward for Excellence in Playwriting and the Yukon Arts Award for Best Art for Social Change. He was Playwright-in-Residence at Native Earth from 2011-2012, a participant in the Stratford Festival Playwrights Retreat, and an ensemble member at the Banff Playwrights Colony. Barker’s work has been presented on stages across Canada and in New Zealand.

“It is an exciting time for Indigenous artists in this country. We are at the beginning of the national conversation around reconciliation. I believe artists will bridge the gap between knowing and not knowing on Turtle Island. With so many talented Indigenous artists in this country, my focus as Artistic Director will be to work with our communities to bring these voices to the stage. I will do my utmost to support the talented emerging, established, and senior Indigenous artists as they pursue their practice, as well as work to provide opportunities to thrive on national and international stages. As Artistic Director, I will pursue partnerships with allies to tell our stories in meaningful and respectful ways,” says Barker.

“I would like to take a moment to thank former Artistic Director, Ryan Cunningham, for his service to the organization and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is also important to me to acknowledge the hard work of those who came before us, and I pledge to do my best to help build a path for those who are yet to come. Miigwetch.”

Barker is a former board member for the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance and served three years on the Toronto Arts Council Committee. He comes to Native Earth from the Canada Council for the Arts where he has been a Theatre Program Officer since 2015.

Barker will join Native Earth full-time in May 2017.

Photo of Keith Barker by Christian Lloyd

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Application Deadline:
Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Native Earth Performing Arts’ annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival is a celebration of new works and works-in-development which fosters the development of Indigenous work and artists from across Canada and around the world.

Each November, Native Earth selects dance, theatre and interdisciplinary works reflecting Indigenous performing arts to be presented, or to receive development support and a workshop production or reading during the two-week festival. We encourage national and international performing artists of all disciplines and at any stage in their career to apply.

We are now accepting submissions for Weesageechak Begins to Dance 30. Curated by a committee, select pieces will receive dramaturgical/directorial support, rehearsal time and a public showing. In order for a submission to be eligible, the primary artist or artists must identify as Indigenous.*

Once again, we are proudly partnering with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to include the 2-Spirit Cabaret in the Weesageechak festival. 2-spirit, trans and queer-identified Indigenous artists are encouraged to apply with short (5-10 minute) works. Both presentations and works-in-development will be considered this year, with any desired development support to be discussed with selected artists individually.



• Artistic Merit
• Programming Fit
• Production Capacity and Viability

All applicants must be available between November 6th and November 25th, 2017 for rehearsals and performance dates.

If you experience difficulty submitting materials through this form, please send your application and all required materials by email to:

Sue Balint, Weesageechak Festival Producer

Submissions will not be accepted by mail. If you have questions about your Weesageechak 30 submission or need additional assistance with your application, please call 416-531-1402.

*Native Earth Performing Arts uses the term Indigenous to encompass the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit of Turtle Island (North America). We also include Indigenous peoples from other regions including Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and Greenland.

Meegwetch to the Supporters of
Weesageechak Begins to Dance

The Chawkers Foundation


Past Festivals

Weesageechak 29 | Weesageechak 28 | Weesageechak 27
Weesageechak 26 | Weesageechak 25 | Weesageechak 24

Who is Weesageechak?
>click here to find out<


Featured Photo from W29
L-R: Ed Roy,  Chelsea Rose Tucker, Jeremy Proulx, Cheri Maracle, Samantha Brown, Jesse Nobess, Kristopher Bowmen;
All Photos by Ed Maruyama Photography

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Solomon + Medellín-Meinke

The second of the two Indigenous dance works taking the stage in Aki Studio on Thursday, March 30th is the NDN way by Anishinaabe choreographer-dancer Brian Solomon, performed with Mestizo dance artist Mariana Medellín-Meinke. 

Brian Solomon grew up in the Northern Ontario village of Shebanoning-Killarney and fell in love with dance during high school, after realizing his natural abilities in movement.

Brian Solomon - the NDN way

Solomon in rehearsal; photo by Native Earth

“Growing up in the bush on the land, I’ve always had a strong connection to my body moving over terrain. I think being born with one hand gifted me with a greater connection to the body as well – adjusting movements in every day life from a young age. ”

Solomon’s artistic partner Mariana Medellín-Meinke was born and raised in México where dance was an integral element of her upbringing. “There’s an incredibly vast number of traditional dances in México, and the traditional dance that I mainly engaged in was the dance of the Matlachines,” As Medellín-Meinke  grew older, she felt inundated by the influx of the European invasion and aesthetics in her practice. “I’m grateful for all the knowledge that I acquired through European-based disciplines. But I’m now reconnecting with the dances of the people and communities of Turtle Island.”

Medellín-Meinke’s interest in Indigenous and traditional dance lends itself to a natural partnership with Solomon. The two met as students at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and have been collaborating for over a decade.

Medellín-Meinke, Solomon

Medellín-Meinke, Solomon; Native Earth

“We formed a strong personal and artistic bond from the start of our relationship,” Medellín-Meinke explains. “Not only have we helped each others’ artistic development, but our relationship has also functioned as a platform for the fostering of our critical thinking.”

And when Solomon was inspired to create the NDN way, the choice of collaborator was obvious.  “She fills me with inspiration to no end,” says Solomon of his collaborator. “There are few artists as incredible as her.”

The began their process in a studio in Parkdale,  transfixed, listening to an old recording of an interview with Ron Evans. The storyteller was being interviewed about traditional Cree teachings for a 1974 CBC documentary called The Indian Way. “I’d never heard someone so succinctly speak on vast concepts… in just one hour,” says Solomon. “Ron’s language is direct; it’s soft, clear, sure and genuinely full of feeling. One somehow has a sense of the embodiment of the teachings in his voice.”

“The first day we rehearsed we did almost no movement,” describes Solomon. “We sat for hours… asking ourselves how we could possibly apply anything visual to what this man was speaking of.”  Medellín-Meinke also remembers the feeling on that first day, “It was filled with a sense of excitement and pulsating energy. Like the sound of a rattle.”


Medellín-Meinke in rehearsal; Native Earth

the NDN way is not a traditional Indigenous dance piece – it is Solomon’s visual art-warp, a re-imagining, remix and interpretation of the Cree philosophies Ron Evans describes in this decades old interview about medicine teachings, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges and death. So why is this recording relevant today?

“We live with what [Ron] is speaking of inside us as humans, Indigenous or not. He is speaking about every aspect of our lives as sacred,” says Solomon. “We can all use reminders of this.”

For Mariana the experience working with Solomon on the NDN way has highlighted the philosophy that we are all connected. “When [Brian and I] first met, many years ago, we saw each other as two distant people from distant places. But as time passed we began realizing our ancestral connections. We had a shift of perspective. Modern borders began vanishing while Turtle Island began surfacing. Tobacco and corn drew an imaginary umbilical chord between us and the Land. It became clearer how our self-awareness had been clouded by the still predominant Western narrative. I’m personally finding my strength in my self-awareness rooted in ancestral knowledge. And I believe that this can be potentially the case for the community at large.”

Medellín-Meinke, Solomon

Medellín-Meinke, Solomon in rehearsal; Native Earth

the NDN way was commissioned by Native Earth Performing Arts, and it will make its world premiere in Native Earth’s Aki Studio.

For Solomon that is significant.

“Native Earth has a vast history of presenting every type of Indigenous art, from emerging creators to artists we now might consider pioneers of the forms. Whether we know it or not, as Indigenous performing artists on this land, we are all connected to the work and people that have moved through Native Earth. It’s an honour to be a part of that legacy.”

the NDN way runs March 30 – April 1 at 9:00 pm in Aki Studio, part of Niimi’iwe: Indigenous Dance Double Bill.

Quick Facts About Solomon + Medellín-Meinke

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
Mariana: Trust in your heart’s strength.

What are you reading right now?
Brian: My palm.

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Mariana: The relentless imposition of the system which suffocates possibilities.

Where is your favorite place to be?
Brian: Home. On the rocks and in the waters.

Mariana: In grateful land.

What’s your favourite dessert?
Brian: Everything chocolate, EVERYTHING.

Feature photo by David Meinke

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Grenier + Jamieson

This Thursday, Native Earth’s annual Indigenous Dance Double Bill, Niimi’iwe, returns to Aki Studio with two incredible contemporary Indigenous dance works. The first is light breaking broken, a collaboration by Cree/Gitxsan choreographer Margaret Grenier and Vancouver’s Karen Jamieson.

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Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

For Margaret Grenier, dance is a way of life. Grenier grew up in a Cree and Gitxsan family, who worked to revitalize Indigenous dance after the Potlatch ban was lifted in the 1950s. Her family created the West Coast’s Dancers of Damelahamid, and after growing up immersed in traditional training, Grenier is now the Executive and Artistic Director.

Karen Jamieson, founder of Karen Jamieson Dance, realized dance was what she was meant to do after taking a class as an elective during her post-graduate teaching degree at Simon Fraser University. In the time since, Jamieson has become an award-winning choreographer who has toured around the world. She collaborated with Grenier’s parents on Gawa Gyani in 1991, and Jamieson and Grenier have stayed connected ever since. The two are bringing their new collaboration about language, culture, and identity to Toronto, as a part of Native Earth’s Niimi’iwe.

lbb Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

“Cultural identity and fear of other cultures are serious issues on the planet today. light breaking broken participates in a necessary and ongoing conversation that seeks to move forward while acknowledging our past,” says Jamieson. “While Gawa Gyani was groundbreaking in many ways, it was created with two dance traditions existing side by side. light breaking broken builds upon this relationship and extends into a new territory with the beginnings of a hybrid language drawing from both dance traditions.”

The piece began in 2012 when Grenier was invited into the research process for a solo Jamieson was working on.  “Our ‘danced conversation’ focused on the juxtaposition of our radically different dance traditions, different perspectives, and a dialogue on post-colonial dance,” describes Jamieson. “Our explorations resulted in a work with very strong potential so we committed to developing it further.”

lbb Grenier; Photo by Chris Randle

Grenier; Photo by Chris Randle

That is exactly what they did. Over the past few years, Grenier and Jamieson workshopped the piece, having long conversations, identifying key issues, questions, and contradictions, and then improvising movement inspired by their differing dance traditions. “We began to look at the concept of broken as a paradox with both a positive, as in breaking through, and a negative, as in broken spirit, says Grenier. “This led to the foundation of the current work.”

“For myself it has been a significant learning experience in understanding creative processes outside of those informed by Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies,” says Grenier. “I feel as if the whole process has been both humbling and also empowering as it has further clarified my own practice and deepened my internal foundation in the coastal form.”

lbb Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Like most great work, there is also a team of collaborators behind light breaking broken, including Margaret Harris (Elder Advisor), Josh Hite (Video Artist), John Korsrud (Composer), DD Kugler (Dramaturg), Betsy Lomax (Elder Language Carrier), and James Proudfoot (Lighting Designer). Jamieson describes the collaboration with Korsrud , Hite, Proudfoot and Kugler as open, generous and creative, and highlights Grenier’s mother Margaret Harris as a “mentor, teacher and respected Elder whose wisdom has guided me for many years.” Lomax’s understanding of language and culture was also vital to the creation process. “We have so few fluent speakers, says Grenier. “It is always vital to bring this knowledge into the process.”

light breaking broken had its world premiere last week at Vancouver’s International Dance Festival, and this week it will have its Toronto premiere with Native Earth, a natural fit for this work. “Indigenous artists need a safe space to open our hearts and share our practices,” says Grenier. “Native Earth carries the medicine of all the Indigenous artists who have done this.”

light breaking broken runs March 30 – April 1 at 7:00 pm in Aki Studio, part of Niimi’iwe: Indigenous Dance Double Bill.

Quick Facts About Grenier + Jamieson

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
Margaret: Have faith that you are always
guided by those who have come before you.

Karen: You have to love it.

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Karen: Relevance.

Where is your favorite place to be?
Margaret: Home, on the Skeena River,
which is the Ksan and Damelahamid.

Karen: Up the coast of British Columbia
to a remote bay with no roads or electricity.

Who is one of your heroes?
Margaret: My grandmother,
who was strong and dedicated and kind.

Feature photo by Chris Randle

Ryan IMG_5453 hi res - website banner

Native Earth Performing Arts announces the departure of Artistic Director

After three seasons, Ryan Cunningham is leaving Native Earth Performing Arts to pursue personal artistic projects, starting with his debut at Shaw Festival this summer.

In his time as Artistic Director, Cunningham strengthened Native Earth’s position as Canada’s leading Indigenous performing arts company with impactful programming and strategic partnerships. Most notably, these efforts resulted in a nine-city nation-wide tour of Native Earth’s award-winning production of Huff by Cliff Cardinal. Cunningham’s time in New Zealand and Australia also reinforced Native Earth’s longstanding international partnerships, leading to presentations of Huff around the globe.

Since he joined the company in 2014, Cunningham has been instrumental in reimagining Native Earth’s annual development festival, Weesageechak Begins to Dance, placing a focus on the inclusion of Indigenous dance and select presentations of work by legendary Indigenous artists, such as SpiderWoman Theater’s Gloria Miguel. Cunningham’s determination to bring Indigenous dance into a prominent position within Native Earth’s season birthed the now annual Indigenous Dance Double Bill, Niimi’iwe.

“During Ryan’s term as Artistic Director, Native Earth has developed new partnerships across Canada and internationally, as well as broadening the range of work we produce and present,” says Ashley Stacey, President of the Board of Directors. “We value the contribution he has made to the company and wish him well in his future artistic work.”

Stacey points out that this shift in leadership comes at the brink of Native Earth’s 35th season, creating an opportunity for a new visionary to lead the company into this milestone season.   “It is an exciting time for Indigenous performing arts in Canada, and this change will offer another Indigenous leader a chance to make their mark – not only at Native Earth, but in an ever shifting artistic landscape.”

As Native Earth closes out their current season, Cunningham prepares for his upcoming performances with Tafelmusik and Shaw Festival.

A Search Committee to find a successor will be chaired by Ashley Stacey of the Native Earth Performing Arts Board of Directors.

Native Earth Seeks Applications for New Artistic Director


Métis Mutt

Written & Performed by Sheldon Elter

Preview January 25
January 26 – February 5



Sterling Award Winner for
New Work and Performance

Métis Mutt is a comedic, heartbreaking and unpredictable performance piece that recounts the journey of a young Métis man finding his way out of a destructive cycle.

In a performance the Edmonton Journal calls “intelligent and consistently inventive,” Elter expertly switches between storytelling, stand-up comedy, music and multi-character vignettes to expose the impact of family dysfunction, internalized racism and spiritual growth.

Directed by Ron Jenkins
Set & Lighting Design by Tessa Stamp
Projection Design by T. Erin Gruber
Sound Design by Aaron Macri
Stage Management by Tessa Stamp

This production has been funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Original production co-created with Kenneth Brown.

5-stars“Elter’s remarkable talent is wide-ranging” – See Magazine

5-stars“a role that is physically demanding and technically flawless” – VUE Weekly

4-5-stars“intelligent and consistently inventive” – Edmonton Journal

Running time is approximately 90 minutes
There is no intermission.

Trigger Warnings:
This play contains scenes of domestic violence,
substance abuse,  and offensive language.


Tickets $15-$25, available online.
Wednesday January 25 and Tuesday January 31st door tickets are pay-what-you-can. Advance tickets are regular price.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.
For information on group rates, call the box office at 416-531-1402.

Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402
Email: boxoffice[at]nativeearth.ca

More information on ticket pick-up here.

BW Headshot - Sheldon Elter sq

Sheldon is an award-winning Métis actor, writer, stand-up comic, musician and director originally from Northern Alberta. As a stand-up comic, he has emceed and been host at both Breaker’s, and Dave’s Comedy Saloon, and has toured Western Canada twice as the opening comedy act for hypnotist, Marc Savard. Sheldon was also a Top 14 Finalist on Canadian Idol in 2006. In 2002 Elter and his work Métis Mutt won two Sterling Awards for Best Actor and Best New Work. More About Sheldon

Photos by Ryan Parker

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March 30 – April 1, 2017
Aki Studio
7 PM & 9 PM


light breaking broken
a creative collaboration by
Margaret Grenier and Karen Jamieson

Peeling back the layers of the unknown, and forging a path to understanding, light breaking broken (formerly Light Breaking Through BROKEN) is the personal journey of two artists reconnecting with language, culture, and identity. With different cultural perspectives and individual histories, Grenier and Jamieson use their distinct dance styles to push each other’s boundaries and find an opening to the light. Read More

the ndn way 2the NDN way
a Brian Solomon Electric Moose production

Interpreted by Brian Solomon and Mariana Medellín-Meinke

In 1974, a budding artist created her first CBC documentary after finding inspiration in the synthesis of the Cree world views by Ron Evans. Inspired by the same original recording of the Cree storyteller, Solomon’s the NDN way re-imagines, remixes and interprets these philosophies about medicine teachings, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges and death in a highly theatrical, visual art-warp. Read More



A DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event


Tenille Campbell & Andréa Ledding: “through laughter and song”

What started off as a Facebook challenge for Dene/Métis author and photographer Tenille Campbell, has now transformed into the full length play Fancydance: The Musical. Written with Métis poet, writer and Facebook challenger Andréa Ledding, the musical will have a premiere staged reading at the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival on Friday, November 18th.

Campbell, who is currently in her third year of her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan (Aboriginal Storytelling and Literature), is an emerging playwright, and first time Weesaeechak artist, who is embarking on that journey with Fancydance.

“I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that” – Campbell

“As a new playwright… incorporating music and dance into this play was a reflection of storytelling – epic adventures, the blur between memory and reality, chance happenings that seem like fate,” explains Campbell. Plus, “I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that.”

It’s a different story for 2013 Lieutenant Governor Arts Award nominee Andréa Ledding: Fancydance marks a return to Weesageechak for this artist, who has written for the stage, print media and has had her poems published in anthologies. She previously developed her play Dominion in the festival, an experience that left Ledding impressed. “Native Earth is an amazing community of artists and creators, and we really look forward to tapping into that community.”

After hearing about her co-writer’s experience, Campbell took the leap and applied. “Andréa spoke about the festival as a very safe space to learn from actors and directors, and people who know the business and believe in community – not competition – and I loved that.”

The pair came together to write in a very modern way. “I was watching a bunch of musicals and comedies one night while avoiding school readings, and noticed the lack of Indigenous presence in most, if not all, these movies that I love,” Campbell remembers. “I went to Facebook to bemoan this.”

“I posted below ‘Let’s write one! Pow-Wow the Musical!,'” adds Ledding. “We kept talking about it and saying we needed to do it. And eventually we started working on it every Tuesday morning in my kitchen.”

“We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women” – Ledding

The result: Fancydance: The Musical, which follows Devon, a young Indigenous woman and her journey of identity while torn between two love interests. “We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women, and, yes, Indigenous men too,” says Ledding.

Inspired by the catchy music of her favourite musicals, Tenille wants to create a musical that can live outside the theatre. “I hope Fancydance makes people laugh, or hum a song as they walk out of the theatre, or phone up their friends saying ‘you won’t believe what I just saw,'” she explains. “I want this piece to create community and discussion through laughter and song.”

See Campbell and Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical on Friday, November 18th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with readings of works by Cheyenne Scott and Denneh’Cho Thompson.

Something More from Campbell & Ledding

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
TC: Our very existence is political so when we create, our stories reflect our survival and triumphs, and these stories go hand in hand with confronting the political aspects that we confront everyday.

AL: It’s a shortcut you can trust!

What superpower would you like to have?
TC: I would like to be able to teleport.
I would visit the world without visiting all the airports.

AL: I wish I could magically record my thoughts and ideas as scripts and stories without all that interface in the way.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
TC: No Hickies. Ha!
The best advice I’ve been given was to stay humble.

AL: Write about what matters to you. And don’t give up.

What are you craving right now?
TC: Grande peppermint mocha, 1/2 sweet, extra shot
– it’s Christmas in a cup.

AL: Coffee and a good book.

What is coming up next for you?
TC: I’m hoping to finish some work on my schooling, work on edits for a poetry collection, and write the plot outline to a novel I’ve been thinking about.

AL: I’m going to WBTD! And then Madrid! And I have a play being produced in Spring 2017 at Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre!

To me, art is:
TC: Essential.

AL: That which speaks to the heart, the spirit, the psyche, and the soul, as well as the mind.

Campbell & Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical
Friday, November 18th @ 7:30pm


Billy McPherson: “a true story of identity”

Our annual festival of Indigenous works aims to provide a platform to unite Indigenous voices from around the world. Weesageechak Begins to Dance exists to strengthen the Indigenous presence in the arts community, and in addition to the Canadian voice, this year’s festival includes work from the USA and Australia.

Billy McPherson in rehearsals at Weesageechak

Making his  debut at Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is Kamillaroi filmmaker, actor and writer Billy McPherson with his play Cuz, directed by Frederick Copperwaite of Australia’s Moogahlin Performing Arts.

Wishing to expose the realities of the Australian Indigenous experience, McPherson’s Cuz is an autobiographical play that tackles themes of identity and shadeism.

“This is a true story of identity, of my dear cousin and myself over 45 years growing up from little kids (gunnadoos) to the present,” explains McPherson. “I wanted to share… what it is like for Aboriginal people in Australia to have to deal with not being identified as an Aboriginal person, because of my cousin’s fair skin complexion.”

Before now, McPherson worked primarily as a filmmaker – his film Nalingu was screened at Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival -and Cuz marks McPherson’s first attempt at playwriting.

Driven to create work that can be shared with First Nations people around the world, McPherson describes Cuz as a play “about identity and being proud – not giving up hope as an Aboriginal, and believing in yourself regardless of the struggles we encounter everyday in our lives.”


L-R: Billy McPherson, Joelle Peters, Cliff Cardinal, Frederick Copperwaite, Ryan Cunningham in rehearsals for Cuz

Although this will be McPherson’s first time visiting Canada, he shares Native Earth’s vision behind the festival – to further the Indigenous voice on the world stage.

“We are the original storytellers,” says McPherson, and Indigenous theatre and dance is “to record our history and to tell our stories to the wider audiences. I am now very thankful to Native Earth and Ryan Cunningham for inviting Cuz for reading at Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival.”

McPherson’s Cuz will be presented on Wednesday November 16th at 7:30 pm in the Aki Studio, with performances by Cliff Cardinal, Joelle Peters, and Native Earth’s Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham.

Something more from Billy McPherson

What piece are you looking forward
to seeing at Weesageechak 29?

It’s my first time to Canada so definitely meeting
and greeting First Nations art and people.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
I was inspired by many great Aboriginal artists and creators from my early rise in the theatre world back in 1988, especially from a original pioneer with Aunty Oogeroo Noonuccul nee (Kath Walker).
She was instrumental to myself with telling me in believing in myself, to be proud of who I am and to record our history to pass onto the next generation. Also Kevin Smith a famous Aboriginal actor from Sydney, New South Wales, who had taken me under his wings to guide and assist me with my craft. I am forever thankful to these two dear friends and peers. Both are now in the dreamtime.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Art is politics and politics is arts, so I have many questions needing answering. But in meantime, I will continue to tell our Indigenous stories from Australia.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Record your black history and never give up.
Learning everyday in my life.
Also to take it as it comes everyday.

What superpower would you like to have? Why?
I would like to have a magic boomerang… and be the hero for our Indigenous people so that every time the world is in crisis I can throw my boomerang and it freezes other people around the world in time… Just imagine turning back time and…  turning away the Captain Cook invasion in Australia in 1770.

What is your favourite pastime?
Boxing training and sparring sessions with mates I enjoy,
and going to the theatre and listening to Indigenous music.

What are you craving right now?
I’m nervous and excited and craving for actors reading my play Cuz.  Also, meeting new friends from Canada and from around the world. (Oh and a can of lemonade too…)

What is coming up next for you?
I’m in rehearsals for a new play, Home Country, with
Urban Theatre Projects as part of the Sydney Festival
program that opens in January 2017.

To me, art is:
Art is intimating life and telling our stories.

See Billy McPherson’s Cuz on
Wednesday, November 16th @ 7:30pm


Dean Gabourie: “the voices that will save our society.”

Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 has opened and each night we will continue to share new work by incredibly talented Indigenous creators. Thursday night we welcome a line-up of playwrights with work in very early stages, including work by director, teacher, actor, writer and Founding Artistic Director of the award-winning ACME Theatre Co., Dean Gabourie.

Gabourie has been creating provocative theatre in Canada and abroad for over twenty-five years. Graduate of Ryerson Theatre School, and past Assistant / Associate Artistic Director at the Stratford Festival, this Métis theatre practitioner makes his debut in the Weesageechak festival with Wounded Heart Stampede.


The Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. 1950.

A play in its earliest stages, Wounded Heart Stampede is centered on a man who wakes up, still drunk, under the Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. Gabourie describes the play as “a journey taken by many of mixed blood, a story of self-mockery, self-indulgence and self-discovery.”

Gabourie was inspired to create the piece on his journey to Calgary, Alberta for the One Yellow Rabbit Summer Lab in 2005. But, at the time, that is where it ended. “I purchased the props, outlined the story arc and almost immediately stopped, ” he explained. “I wrote and performed an entirely different piece.”

Over a decade later, he is ready to return to the play, and for Gabourie there is no question that Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is the place for that development. “For me, it was the only place I felt I could share this piece, otherwise it would have never seen the light of day.”

Though this marks Gabourie’s first time presenting work in the Weesageechak festival, he has been deeply involved with Native Earth Performing Arts in the past. Gabourie believes in the need to make space for Indigenous performing arts, and asserts that “these are the voices that will save our society.”

See Dean Gabourie’s Wounded Heart Stampede on Thursday, November 10th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with readings of works by Shandra Spears Bombay, Josh Languedoc and Craig Lauzon.

Some More from Dean Gabourie

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
Brad Fraser’s Ménage à Trois.
I adore and respect his work.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
August Schellenberg and his creative courage and ability
to achieve at anything he attempted.

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
Courage, to have the mental and physical strength to overcome fears.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Everything is political, on some level… address away.

What superpower would you like to have?
Invisibility, the ability to disappear and reappear would be so useful on so many levels.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Your words and opinions are not worth hurting another’s feelings.

What is your favourite pastime?

What is your most memorable performance?
A one-man Medea at Middlesex University.

What are you craving right now?

What is coming up next for you?
Directing Hamlet for Shakespeare in Detroit

To me, art is:
To inform and delight.

See Dean Gabourie’s Wounded Heart Stampede on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm