Paprika is a youth-led professional performing arts organization that runs year-round professional training and mentorship programs culminating in a performing arts festival of new work by young artists. Paprika runs programs for youth interested in playwriting, directing, acting, collective creation and producing theatre.
Paprika is excited to enter into its second year running The Regent Collective, a community engaged arts program focused on Indigenous youth and youth from Regent Park. Paprika is a place where young people are given the autonomy and support to enter into the professional arts world.
The Paprika Festival is proud to be an industry partner with Native Earth Performing Arts.
Join us from May 22 to 28 at in Aki Studio and experience new plays, dance performances, workshop productions, experimental art and more — all of it created by young artists. This is the art of tomorrow; see it first.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.
Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402
More information on ticket pick-up here.
This week reminded me of a quote by Richard Wagamese, “The head has no answers, and the heart has no questions.” We lost Richard this past March and if you haven’t read his books I highly recommend them. I am halfway through Indian Horse, and loving it. He was a brilliant writer and storyteller who will be dearly missed. Richard remains in our thoughts and prayers and our condolences to his partner Yvette.
This is a whole new experience for me so I am going to try and keep it short, for brevity’s sake, but also because I have only just started. This is what I can say so far: My first day culminated in an open house at the office to which I am grateful for. A big thank you to Falen Johnson who reminded me the best way to begin a job like this is to start with community. Many thanks to those people who were able to make it out and no worries to those who were not able to make it. Life is life and everyone is busy. Plus it rained that day and no one likes going out in the rain. Irregardless (as Helen Thundercloud would say) our doors remain open, so please drop by and say hello when and or if you can. It would be great to see you.
A priority for me as a new Artistic Director is to create more opportunities for female artists, designers, directors and administrators. As the 6th or 7th male in a row to be appointed Artistic Director of a theatre in Canada (Eda Holmes at the Centaur Theatre being the exception) we need more female voices in the theatre – period. I look forward to speaking with you further about how we can make that happen.
Before I end this I want to acknowledge another loss to the Toronto theatre community. Jon Kaplan, a theatre critic in the city for the past 35 years passed away one week ago. He left a hole that cannot be filled with his passing. He was all heart with that big moustache grin, tall and lanky in a way that immediately endeared him to people. He had a way of being beautifully awkward. A consummate gentleman, he respected artists in a way that most people don’t in the outside world. The last time I saw him was at my play in July at the Summerworks Festival. The show itself is quite emotional and afterwards when I saw him in the courtyard he said, “It was very close to what I’m going through. I needed a good cry. Thank you for that.” We hugged for a long time, both ending up crying, then I made a dumb joke and we laughed. “Thank you for this” and in that moment I knew we were going to lose him soon. A few years ago he bought a chair in Native Earth’s donation drive for the newly acquired Aki Studio. We have placed his chair in his favourite spot and there it will remain. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Jon on your next journey and with his partner Don during this difficult time.
And with that I think I will end it here. I know that words are only words if they are not followed up with action. As I start to find my bearings here at the company I promise you that my work as Artistic Director will be to support Indigenous artists and Indigenous work as best I can, and I look forward to helping occupy theatrical spaces from coast to coast to coast with our work. Thank you to everyone who had reached out and helped me along this journey, to the board for trusting me with the future of the company, and the staff here here at Native Earth for their generosity and assistance in making this first week a good one.
You’re invited to come by the Native Earth office on
Monday, May 1st between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm for an open house. Join us for snacks, refreshments, and a chat with our new Artistic Director, Keith Barker.
NATIVE EARTH PERFORMING ARTS ANNOUNCES
APPOINTMENT OF KEITH BARKER AS 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.
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.
“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-Meinkewas 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-Meinkegrew 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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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 Gyaniin 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.
“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 brokenbuilds 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.”
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.”
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.”
VOTE FOR MÉTIS MUTT
We’re up for NOW Magazine’s Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award. Make Métis Mutt your pick & vote now!
Written & Performed by Sheldon Elter
January 25- February 5, 2017
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
“Elter’s remarkable talent is wide-ranging” – See Magazine
“a role that is physically demanding and technically flawless” – VUE Weekly
“intelligent and consistently inventive” – Edmonton Journal
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
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
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
Native Earth’s Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 is an annual two-week festival that brings together new and familiar faces to celebrate the latest in Indigenous performing arts. This year, over 30 artists will come from across Canada and around the world to share their work with audiences at the festival.
We are thrilled to welcome Frances Koncan to the festival for the first time. Koncan is an Anishinaabe writer and director from Couchiching First Nation, currently based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For her first appearance in the festival, Koncan will share with audiences a fully staged reading of zahgidiwin/love, a dark comedy about trauma, genocide, and decolonization amidst an era of Truth & Reconciliation.
“Indigenous theatre is often reduced to a very specific type of play”
“I was inspired to create this piece after attending the Indigenous Writing Program at Banff, where we had the opportunity to learn about Indigenous writing across Canada and its multifaceted forms and shapes,” says Koncan. “It made me consider how Indigenous theatre is often reduced to a very specific type of play, and I wanted to challenge that form while also exploring issues that affect me and my family, through a contemporary lens that was relatable to as many people as possible.”
Earlier versions of Koncan’s zahgidiwin/love were included in bcurrent’s rock.paper.sistahz Festival and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, where the CBC gave the play four stars. And as Koncan continues to develop the piece, she hopes bringing the work to Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival will help her to diversify her experience as an Indigenous playwright and theatremaker.
“The innovation of [Weesageechak Begins to Dance] and the kinds of work it supports and champions are so exciting! I think the feedback and exploration the play will receive will really help take it to the next level.”
Described by one reviewer as “a really good acid trip that suggests post-apocalyptic hope is possible,” Koncan has a clear idea of the impact she wants her work to have on audiences.
“Most of all, I want to encourage people to feel safe in exploring difficult, traumatic issues through the use of humour,” she explains. “I’d like people to feel uncomfortable, but to embrace that discomfort and let it be a useful starting point to consider their assumptions and prejudices.”
Koncan will develop zahgidiwin/love in Weesageechak Begins to Dance with the support of director/dramaturg, and Anishinaabe PhD candidate at UBC, Lindsay Lachance. The two will also take part in a pre-show talk, moderated by Native Earth before zahgidiwin/love on Saturday, November 12th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio.
What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
DO IT and DO IT OFTEN and DO IT LOUD
What superpower would you like to have? Why?
This isn’t a superpower, but I’d like the power to not be nervous around other people, and to know exactly the right thing to say to them so that they feel good about themselves but also love me.
Is that TMI?
What are you craving right now?
I am 100% always craving tacos.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Fake it ’till you make it!” was the primary anthem of my time in New York City, where everyone suffers from imposter syndrome.
I use it when I’m feeling like a fraud, which is often.
What is your favourite pastime? I read this as pastatime and my answer was 5PM but only if I don’t have plans later (carb hangover). My favourite pastime is probably playing piano and writing songs, or organizing revolutions.
What is your most memorable performance?
I am not an actor but have recently tried to get on stage more to overcome my fears and to better understand what performers need from me as a writer and director. I did my first Fringe Festival show as a performer this summer, which was scary but so much fun! Now I do stand-up and improv on the reg, and every show is a good memory.
Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
Too many! My friend and journalist Angelia Sterritt, who uncovers and shares difficult, powerful stories in her work and in her art. Lisa Meeches is a Winnipeg-based producer who is a huge supporter and advocate for Indigenous artist and provides so many opportunities for our community. Sadie Phoenix Lavoie is a bad-ass Winnipeg activist who recently got arrested at Ottawa for peaceful protest, and inspires me every day with her bravery and courage. My writing mentors at Banff (Cherie Dimaline, Waub Rice, and Diane Glancy), who gave me such a foundational introduction to Indigenous writing that re-shaped my entire perspective of what theatre could be and what I could write. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, whose “Islands of Decolonial Love” basically changed my life. Joseph Boyden, for his advice about literary hustlin’. He’s Métis… kind of a superstar, and in a culture where humility is a virtue, he reminded me that it’s cool to be a little bit of a star too.
What is coming up next for you?
I’m currently an Associate Artist with Winnipeg theatre company, Sarasvàti Productions, and am focusing on developing free theatre workshops for Indigenous and Newcomer Youth. I’m also directing a production of Agatha Christie’s The Hollow in February 2017! I’m also working on several independent projects, including a play workshop series for emerging artists.
At some point, I plan on sleeping.
As we launch a season celebrating transformations, it’s fitting that the team at Native Earth has also be shifting. This summer, we expanded our box office team and welcomed two new intern coordinators to assist with Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29. With five new faces to introduce, we offer these get-to-know-you questions.
Let’s start with something simple. Where can you be found on a Saturday evening?
Sounds like you’re well on your way. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
Peter Kelly: “Yes. Dance is my life!”
Ashley Bomberry: “What I’m doing right now isn’t what I dreamt of as a child – I’m doing so much more than I could have dreamed. At the same time, I don’t feel like I’m as far as I should be or as accomplished as I’d like to be. But I have had a lifetime full of adventures and travel and friends along the way and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Annie MacKay: “Yes – finally!”
Joelle Peters: “Yes, 100%. Creating art and helping others do the same makes my heart happy.”
Tyler Marden: “I have always wanted to work within Indigenous arts and media. While my focus has not been theatre-related, I am excited to work alongside other Indigenous artists who share the same passion for creative storytelling as I do.”
How about long-term. What is your dream job?
Tyler Mardsen: “Executive Producer of a web and mobile Indigenous production company.”
Peter Kelly: “An Artistic Director of an international dance company, organization or festival.”
Ashley Bomberry: “My perfect or dream job would be creating (writing, directing, producing) films and television programs to share Indigenous stories, values, perspectives and humour, which would otherwise go untold/unseen. I’d like to hold workshops in Indigenous communities around the world to empower the youth and provide an outlet for them to share their own stories, visions and dreams.”
Sharing Indigenous stories is what Native Earth is all about! So can you tell us an Indigenous artist whose work you enjoy?
Tyler Marsden: “I am a big fan of Drew Hayden Taylor’s work after first reading Me Funny front-to-back in university. (Shout out to the Occasions!)
Ashley Bomberry: “I wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite play by I do love everything written by Daniel David Moses and Marie Clements. Their voices are so strong and so needed in today’s cultural landscape of race and gender politics, painful pasts, and promising futures.”
Peter Kelly: “Santee Smith.”
Annie MacKay: “I still can’t get Cliff Cardinal’s Huff out of my head!”
Joelle Peters: “Margo Kane’s Moonlodge.”
How about the big picture: if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
Joelle Peters: “Currently, I’d love to go to Peru.”
Peter Kelly: “Europe.”
Tyler Marsden: “I would want to travel to Australia and New Zealand.”
Ashley Bomberry: “If I could travel to anywhere in the world, I’d go to Aotearoa and create some cross-cultural exploration work with Maori artists.”
Annie MacKay: “I have to pick? Spain and Turkey are both high on my list because I’ve never been, but I also want to go back to Vietnam! Hang En Cave specifically. Google It.”
Oh, we will. Finally, do you have a favourite quote?
Tyler Marsden: “Any man who must say ‘I am king’ is no true king at all” – George R.R. Martin
Joelle Peters: “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” -Michael Scott, The Office
Peter Kelly: “You do you.”
Ashley Bomberry: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi