All posts by Native Earth

Drew Hayden Taylor: “The Cream of the Crop”

Audiences will certainly be familiar with this next playwright. Joining us in Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 is Drew Hayden Taylor, an award-winning playwright, novelist, scriptwriter and journalist from the Curve Lake First Nation.  His plays have seen over 80 productions, and some of his twenty-six books have been translated into Spanish, Slovenian, Italian and German.

Drew Hayden Taylor has a long history with Weesageechak Begins to Dance – he participated in the very first one,  which he fondly refers to as “a thousand years ago.”  Taylor returns to the festival because he believes it’s “an opportunity to see the next generation of Native theatre before anybody else does, in its embryonic state.”

“It is a wonderful opportunity for experienced and up-and-coming artists to rub shoulders, and further develop their craft,” says Taylor. “I have always viewed the Weesageechak Festival as the public’s chance to see what is new and cutting edge these days in Native theatre.”

“Where else can you see the cream of the crop, in terms of Aboriginal theatre artists, all grouped together in one place!?”

Indeed, this year audiences will be able to see the work of sixteen playwrights, six dancers, four Animikiig Training Program artists, and international companies Tawata Productions (New Zealand) and La MaMa (New York).  Taylor asks, “Where else can you see the cream of the crop, in terms of Aboriginal theatre artists, all grouped together in one place!?”

This year, Taylor is sharing his new comedy The Boneyard Blues with Weesgeechak audiences, a story “dealing with repatriation of both traditional artifacts, and the heart,” explains Taylor. The piece is a part of his ongoing series of Aboriginal comedies celebrating the Aboriginal sense of humour.


Some bits and bobs about Drew Hayden Taylor

What was your first job in theatre?
Literally, it was being Writer-in-Residence for Native Earth Performing Arts. Prior to that I had written some television and worked on contract for a few arts organizations (like CBC Radio and the Canadian Native Arts Foundation) but never theatre. Tomson neaded a WIR and I needed a job.
It seemed like a match made in heaven.

What are you reading right now?
I am reading Tom King’s On The Back of The Turtle. He’s a good friend of mine and I was thinking I should read it, especially since I had to read a segment for him at the G.G. nomination party last week when he was on the road.

What’s next for you?
Two things, the continuation of my Me series (Me Funny, Me Sexy) called Me Artsy, that explores and deconstructs the Aboriginal artistic experience, and currently I am writing a collection of
Native Science Fiction short stories.

Thanks Drew!


You can catch The Boneyard Blues on Saturday, Nov 22nd @ 7:30pm with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass.
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Karin Randoja: “Raw, Youthful Energy”

Helping to bring to light the new work in Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27,  are a great number of extraordinary dramaturg/directors. One of these is Karin Randoja, who is directing an excerpt from Cliff Cardinal’s new play, romanceship.

Karin Randoja is a director, actor, singer/composer and teacher and has been creating devised theatre for over 20 years. This will be her first time participating in Weesageechak Begins to Dance, and she is excited to be a part of it.

“There is a lot of new work, new energy, new artists, etc. and when you have that much raw, youthful energy, the festival can’t help but be inspiring and spirited,” says Randoja. She says Weesageechak audiences can expect to “meet, head on, new perspectives on Canada and Canadian lives.”

Randoja was a founding member of Primus Theatre and is a member of The Independent Aunties. She has performed and/or directed at Cleveland Public Theatre, La Mama Etc. (New York), The Caravan Farm Theatre and The National Arts Centre (to name a few).

“The festival can’t help but be inspiring and spirited.”

Randoja also teaches at Humber College, and numerous other schools and theatres. She has worked across Canada, the U.S., Europe, Japan and Mozambique, and is a graduate of the acting program at The National Theatre School of Canada.  Next she will be preparing for the world premiere of The Independent Aunties new show, Gertrude and Alice for the 2015/16 season at Buddies in Bad Times.


Some bits and bobs about Karin Randoja

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? One of the best ways to survive the craziness of this world is the classic improv advice, “Yes, and…” Just accept and learn from all the experiences that come your way. Reject nothing. Learn from everything.

What was your first job in theatre?
My first professional experience after graduating NTS was acting in one of the strangest, worst musicals ever written. My friends would come over and over again to sit and revel in how truly, bizarrely awful it was…very humbling. It closed early.

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Finding the time and resources to give new work the right conditions and support it needs to develop and deepen and make Canadian theatre potent and relevant.

What’s your favourite dessert?
I scream ICE CREAM.

Who is one of your heroes?
Mother Theresa.

The one word your best friend would use to describe you?
Unique.

Thanks Karin!


You can catch Cliff Cardinal’s romanceship on Tuesday, November 18th @ 7:30pm with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass. More About Tickets

Jeremy Proulx: “The Work is Daring”

In addition to the line-up of playwrights featured in Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 there are also remarkably talented performances artists. Another of these artists is Jeremy Proulx, a multi-disciplined artist of Anishnaabeg (Ojibwe) and Haudenosaunee (Oneida) descent.

No stranger to Weesageechak Begins to Dance, Proulx explains he returns to Native Earth’s  annual Indigenous festival of new works to “help support talented and emerging First Nation talent in the theatre community.”

This support certainly helps to encourage more playwrights to share their work, which Proulx says pushes boundaries. “The work is daring. The work is highly original.”

Currently an Artistic Associate and ensemble performer with Belarus Free Theatre in the United Kingdom, Proulx has been an actor, writer, dancer and filmmaker for the past 15 years. This past July, he made his London stage debut at the Young Vic in Red Forest, which was co-produced as part of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT).

“The work pushes boundaries. The work is daring. The work is highly original.”

Proulx recently returned from a theatre production tour throughout Italy with Young Vic. Future plans for more international tour dates of Red Forest include New York City, the Melbourne Theatre Festival in Australia, as well as an extensive UK tour next year.


Some bits and bobs about Jeremy Proulx

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? The rejection can be tough but it’s not always about you. Learn to be persistent. Fight for what you believe in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Writing is rewriting. Write what you know.

 What are you thinking right before you begin a play?
Why do people want to hear this play now?

Who are some of your favorite writers? Favorite playwrights? Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, William Shakespeare, Richard LaGravanese, James L. Brooks, Harper Lee, The Coen Brothers

What’s your favourite song lyric?
“Life I’ve always wanted, guess I’ll never have. I’ve been working for somebody else until I’m in my grave. I’ve been dreaming of a life of ease and mountains o’ mountains o’ things.”
Mountains O’ Things by Tracy Chapman

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson and An Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

What’s your favourite dessert?
Cherry Cheesecake

If you were a breakfast cereal which would you be?
Pac-Man

Thanks Jeremy!


You can catch Jeremy Proulx on various nights throughout the festival with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass.
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Cheri Maracle: “Filled to the Brim with Talent”

In addition to the line-up of playwrights featured in Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 there are also remarkably talented performances artists. One such artist is Cheri Maracle, the multi-award nominated actor/singer/songwriter of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Maracle will be performing the one-woman show, Paddle Song by Tom Hill and Dinah Christie, about the life and works of famed Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson. “I absolutely love portraying this historical trailblazer, and am pleased to share this new script with a fresh new audience who probably hasn’t seen this wonderful show yet,” says Maracle.

Maracle has worked primarily on stage and the small screen for the past 20 years professionally. Twice nominated for a K.M. Hunter Theatre award for her body of theatrical work, Maracle was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award last year for her reoccurring role as Sara Bull on APTN’s critically acclaimed Blackstone.

“It’s thrilling, captivating, and filled to the brim with talent.”

But her work doesn’t stop there: She is also a recording artist and recently released her third album Ache of Love, a jazz compilation, available on iTunes. Most recently Maracle played Veronique St.Pierre, at The Belfry Theatre in Victoria.

Maracle suggests audiences can learn something from Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27.  “It’s thrilling, captivating, and filled to the brim with talent. I adore the people involved, they’re maniacs like me. I am so proud to be a part of telling our Indigenous stories. What a majestic gift.”


Some bits and bobs about Cheri Maracle

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? Study, Train, work hard, develop ALL talents. Don’t take anything personally, and treat the theatre with respect.

Describe your ideal writing environment.
Quiet. Serene. Nature around me… but mostly… QUIET!

Who are some of your favorite writers? favorite playwrights? Richard Wagamese is one of my favourite writers.
Fav. playwrights are Marie Clements and Tomson Highway.

What ability would you like to steal from another writer?
Marie Clements’ uncanny visuals.

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?
Orenda, Three Day Road, and Indian Horse.

What are you thinking right before you begin a play?
Before I perform I always give thanks to the Creator, for my gifts as a human being, and I ask the Creator to be with me as I step onstage to tell the story…

Thanks Cheri!


Catch Paddle Song on Saturday, November 15th @ 7:30pm with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass. More About Tickets

Darla Contois: “It’s Time to Listen”

We are incredibly honoured to have a such an incredibly talented line-up for Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27.  This eleven-day festival will bring audiences work from Indigenous playwrights from across the globe.

Recent graduate of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, and current member of the Animikiig Training Program, Native Earth’s is excited to introduce emerging Cree playwright Darla Contois to Weesageechak audiences.

“I’ve been attending Weesageechak Begins to Dance since I first moved to Toronto in 2011,” says Contois. “I remember the first reading I ever saw was Cliff Cardinal’s Huff. It was that captivating performance that’s brought me back every single year to see new works and I’m honored to find myself up on NEPA’s stage.”

Contois will be sharing her debut play, White Man’s Indian, which she describes as “a very personal piece” about “a young woman from the reserve trying to make her way in a dominantly white society.” Contois further explains that the protagonist is “not only dealing with racism but her own issues of sexually repressed memories that force her to re-think everything that she is: Native.”

“Intelligent, honest, funny, and touching – with dark personal truths.” – Ed Roy (Dramaturg)

Darla Contois is from Grand Rapids Cree Nation in Manitoba. She studied theatre at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, University of Manitoba, and is an esteemed graduate of a three-year professional training program at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. Darla has appeared most recently in Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth (Dir: Herbie Barnes, CIT/Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse) and White Buffalo Calf Woman (Dir: Jim Warren, CIT/Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse).


Some bits and bobs about Darla Contois

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write?
Be brutally honest with yourself and with your audience, I promise they’ll love you for it. When you feel stuck sometimes the answer is the simple next step no matter how much you try to ignore it.

Describe your ideal writing environment.
A quiet place I can sort through my thoughts and read over things again and again. I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

What was your first job in theatre?
I got really lucky. I was apart of Columpa Bobb’s Aboriginal Arts program in Winnipeg and we did an improvisation class as a part of our training. As a class we were hired to do improv based on direction we received from a director and a writer, helping them to discover the next phase of their script. I got paid $50.00 per session and it was my first paid acting gig. I was 16 at the time.

What’s your favorite line from a book, or play, or favourite lyric from a song? My favourite line from a book is from Andrew Davidsons ‘The Gargoyle’: “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.”

Why Weesageechak Begins to Dance?
Weesageechak is the only festival of its kind in Toronto featuring Indigenous emerging playwrights. When so many voices of the past have been silenced, it’s time to listen and Weesageechak provides this opportunity.

Thanks Darla!


You can catch White Man’s Indian on Wednesday, November 19th @ 7:30pm, a part of the Animikiig Emerging Artists’ Evening with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass. More About Tickets

Kenneth T. Williams: “Sexy Indigenous People”

We are incredibly honoured to have a such an incredibly talented line-up for Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27.  This eleven-day festival will bring audiences work from Indigenous playwrights from across the globe.

KTW_headshot_colour_namedIncluded in this lineup is award-winning Cree playwright, author of Café Daughter, and former Native Earth Playwright-in-Residence, Kenneth T. Williams. Williams brings his latest work, In Care, to W27, which he describes as his “response to the crisis we have with the various child and family services organizations across this country.”

Williams has sold encyclopedias door-to-door, been a part-time soldier, drummed in a redneck reggae rock band, tended bar, reported from Parliament Hill and is now the proud caregiver to his hamster, The Grand Duchess Single Malt Whisky. Speaking of whiskey, he prefers Irish to Scotch, Bushmills to Jameson’s, but won’t be fussy if you’re buying. He’s currently the Playwright-in-Residence for University of Saskatchewan and was just named its first Aboriginal Fellow in Creativity. He lives in Saskatoon and is known to write plays on occasion. This is his sixth time at Weesageechak Begins to Dance.


Some bits and bobs about Kenneth T. Williams

What was your first job in theatre?
Acting in a Fringe play.

Describe your ideal writing environment.
A hybrid of my living room attached to my favourite coffee shop.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? This is not a life for people who merely “want” it.

What ability would you like to steal from another writer?
How words make gooder.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?
With whomever’s covering the bill.

What can audiences expect from W27?
Sexy Indigenous people writing new plays times three.

What’s next for you?
Cleaning the hamster’s cage.

Thanks Kenneth!


You can catch In Care on Saturday, November 22nd @ 7:30pm with a Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 Festival Pass. More About Tickets

Call For Submissions – Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27

Native Earth Performing Arts is seeking submissions for Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 —a festival devoted to developing and showcasing new works by Indigenous artists.

We welcome:

  • Submissions in theatre, dance, music, poetry,
    multidisciplinary works
  • Collaborations between Indigenous playwrights,
    choreographers or creators
  • Works at all stages of development

Past participants include Monique Mojica, Spy Dénommé-Welch, Ben Cardinal, Jani Lauzon, Cathy Elliot, Hone Kouka, Yvette Nolan, Margo Kane, Billy Merasty, PJ Prudat, Michelle Olson, Waawaate Fobister and many more.

This year’s Weesageechak Festival will take place November 12th 22nd, 2014 in our Aki Studio Theatre. Each selected piece receives dramaturgical/directorial support, rehearsal time and a public showing.  To be eligible, creators must be available to attend the festival.

Submissions will be curated by a selection committee.  The Weesageechak Festival is open to all Indigenous artists.  We are particularly, but not exclusively, interested in new work that examines contemporary Native challenges and experiences.

Artists are required to submit the following via email:

  • A description of the project, and an outline of its current state
  • A summary of its support history to date
  • A work plan articulating the project’s needs; what do you hope to get out of the festival?
  • Bios or Artist statements of any known collaborators who are already involved in the project
  • Text-based work: 15 pages of writing (maximum), preferably from the work submitted.
    Movement-based or predominantly visual work: 5 minutes of video OR photos OR a detailed description of the piece (5 pages maximum)

Deadline for submission:  June 30th, 2014

For more information, please contact Artistic Associates Falen Johnson or Jessica Carmichael at associate[at]nativeearth.ca.

More details: Click here.

ABSOLUTELY NO LATE OR INCOMPLETE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.