Category Archives: 2016/2017 Season

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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


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]

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

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Meet Our Team

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?

Annie MacKay (Patron Services Representative): “Seeing a play or making dinner with friends.”

Tyler Marsden (Marketing Coordinator): “In my backyard, jamming out on the ukulele with my roommates and friends.”

L-R: Ashley Bomberry & Tyler Marsden

Joelle Peters (Patron Services Representative): “Either at home writing and playing my ukulele, watching a show (live or on screen), or out with friends exploring the city.”

Looks like we have two ukulele fans here! Perhaps we’ll have a jam sometime in the office. Okay,  Ashley and Peter, tell us something on your bucket list. 

Ashley Bomberry (Festival Coordinator): “The number one item on my bucket list is to create art that changes minds and lives in some lasting and meaningful way.”

Peter Kelly (Patron Services Representative): “Own a theatre space!”

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.”

Joelle Peters & Annie MacKay

L-R: Joelle Peters & Annie MacKay

How about long-term. What is your dream job?

Tyler Mardsen: “Executive Producer of a web and mobile Indigenous production company.”

Annie MacKay: “Actor-writer-plus-indefinite-number-of-hyphens.”

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.”

Native Earth Staff

Clockwise from bottom: Ryan Cunningham, Joelle Peters, Isaac Thomas, Peter Kelly, Annie MacKay, Jessica Lea Fleming, Kat Horzempa, Yolanda Bonnell

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

Thank you and wachiya/welcome to you all!

To learn more about each of these new team members,
visit our staff page.


RUTAS 2016

Presented in partnership with Aluna Theatre
October 5-16, 2016, Aki Studio
Four-Show Deal $70


November 9-19, 2016, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $15, Festival Pass $60


Written and Performed by Sheldon Elter
January27 – February 5, 2017, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $15-$30


Presented in partnership with DanceWorks
March 30-April 1, 2017, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $25, Double Bill $40


May 2017, Aki Studio

Connect with Native Earth!