Category Archives: 2017/2018 Season

Ipperwash: Performer Profile | J.D. Smith

We welcome Mohawk actor James Dallas Smith to the cast of Native Earth’s new production of Ipperwash by Falen Johnson. Having been part of the first production at Blyth Festival, and Weesageechak Begins to Dance, our annual development festival of Indigenous work, this production will be J.D.’ first full production at Native Earth, as well as his second time working with the acclaimed Six Nations playwright.

“Humour is a defining quality in a character with real depth and dimension. Good writers make it seem natural and not forced. Falen finds a vein of humour for most of her characters that has the rare combination of being both unique and universal. Sometimes tender, sometimes awkward, sometimes biting. She wields humour as a weapon, uses it to dissolve tension and always employs it beautifully to give clear glimpses of what’s going on below the surface.”

“You can’t abuse, poison, and take from someone or something for three quarters of a century and then expect it to heal in less than ten years.”

Ipperwash follows Bea King, an Anishinaabe veteran of the Afghanistan war, who returns to Canada in search of a new life, and soon discovers the devastating history of Camp Ipperwash, the former Canadian military base built on appropriated land.

“Ipperwash has a lot of history. Parts of it are well known, but parts of it are strangely unknown. The biggest surprise for me was how far this community has to go before they and their land are healed. The majority of folks I talked to about this – who live off Stoney or Kettle Point – believe the situation has been solved. But that is not true.”

For over 70 years, the government’s promise to return the land after the war went unfulfilled, and the land is still dangerously contaminated to this day.

“You can’t abuse, poison, and take from someone or something for three quarters of a century and then expect it to heal in less than ten years. Irrevocable damage has been done to these people and this land. There are things that are gone forever.”

Upon watching Ipperwash, J.D. hopes people will understand the scope of the harm done to the communities and their land, and how much more we – as a country and a “civilized society” – have to do to help them get better and ensure this does not happen again.


Ipperwash opens on February 7 and runs until February 18 at Aki Studio. Read more about the show here, and get your tickets here.

More tidbits about James-Dallas Smith

What was your first job in theatre?
Heart of a Distant Tribe. Started the week after I graduated Ryerson.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Let go of what you don’t need.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
I was taught and believe that art – regardless of form or cultural background – is the mirror we hold up to society to examine ourselves. We, as artists, are supposed to tackle uncomfortable ideas that articulate difficult truths or concepts. It’s one of the fundamental reasons good art endures. It challenges us and makes us ask hard questions so we can try to better ourselves.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Jay Silverheels. A pioneer who championed our right to tell our own stories.

What are you reading/listening/watching right now?
Reading: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.
Listening: U2 [Songs of Experience]
Watching: X-Files

Where is your favourite place to be?
At home with pizza.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
The distilling of a complex, difficult and spiritually rich history into a single moment.

From AD Keith Barker

Nothing beats a good story. The best storytellers can make 8 hours of data-entry riveting. As a theatre maker I am always striving to be a better storyteller. When I am in a room full of talented storytellers, it is the best kind of alchemy. I laugh more, cry more, argue more, think more, but most of all, I remain present. This is the gift of good storytelling and live theatre.

This is why I feel our Weesageechak Festival is so important in the work we do. It allows artists to bring work in its rawest form to the stage; sharing the guts of it whiles the blood and sweat of creation is still wet on the floor. It is a culmination of playwrights madly writing, dancers and choreographers building physical language, dramaturges finely tuning words to the action, while actors put action to words. This is the energy that fills the Aki Studio on any given night of the festival, and is what makes Weesageechak so special.

That energy of creation and the excitement in finding new ways of approaching the work is why we programmed Ipperwash this season. The play comes to us fresh from its success at the Blyth Festival this past season. The collaboration with the communities of Stony and Kettle Point First Nation is unlike anything I have seen before. Falen Johnson and Jessica Carmichael have done a lot of work to honour the story of resistance, resilience and reclamation.  We along with Blyth Artistic Director Gil Garratt are excited to give Ipperwash a second production in Toronto. Falen and Jessica are talented creators who have played a huge part in the success of Native Earth and we are honoured to have them in our 2017/18 season.

Finding Wolastoq Voice is a piece I have been excited about since I first heard about it. Five minutes on the phone with its creator Samaquani Cocahq (The Water Spirit) Natalie Sappier, and I was sold. Her passion for the work is impressive. Her clarity and vision infectious. She has partnered with the equally talented Artistic Director of Theatre New Brunswick, Thomas Morgan Jones to create this stunning work. Rarely have we had the opportunity to partner with an East Coast company, so we jumped at the chance to partner with Theatre New Brunswick to showcase the hugely talented Natalie Sappier, Aria Evans, and the gifted design team of Andy Moro and Michael Doherty, directed by Thomas Jones. This is a piece not to be missed.

In closing, this year I will work on trying to connect more with artists, to be more generous with people, to lead with empathy not judgement, and to celebrate this life through art (and hockey). I look forward to seeing many of you at the theatre. What a gift. All my relations, K.

2017-2018 Season


Presented in partnership with Aluna Theatre
October 4-8, 2017 | Aki Studio & Ada Slaight Hall
Single Ticket: Free – $18


November 15-25, 2017 | Aki Studio
Single Ticket: $15


Native Earth presents a Blyth Festival Production
February 6-18, 2018 | Aki Studio
Single Ticket: $15 – 25


Native Earth presents a Theatre New Brunswick Production
March 29-31, 2018 | Aki Studio
Single Ticket: $20 – 25


May 14-20, 2018 | Aki Studio


June 2018 | Aki Studio

Connect with Native Earth!
TW@nativeearth • NativeEarthFB • NativeEarthIG


Lisa C. Ravensbergen:

“Our very existence is a political act”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Weesageechak Beings to Dance 30 features new and familiar faces from across Turtle Island and beyond. This year’s festival celebrates the amazing talents of artists in our community, including the multi-hyphenate theatre artist, Lisa C. Ravensbergen who describes herself as a tawny mix of Ojibwe/Swampy Cree and English/Irish.

The Jessie-nominated actor who currently lives in Kingston returns with her latest work The Seventh Fire. “Like much of my work, it came to me in a dream—and an image that wouldn’t leave me: an old woman sitting in a tree, hooting like an owl. I had to know more about her.” Ravensbergen tells a story of a woman’s return to the Ojibwe community which she believes has rejected her, but soon she discovers her destiny is tied to the community’s survival.

Lisa C. Ravensbergen at God and The Indian
Lisa C. Ravensbergen in God and The Indian. Photo: akipari.

Ravensbergen is no stranger to Native Earth audiences. She has a long history with Native Earth including notable performances in Marie Clements’ The Unnatural and Accidental Women in 2008, and Drew Hayden Taylor’s God and The Indian in 2015. Weesageechak has a special place in her heart where her very first creation-collaboration, The Place Between, was workshopped, and later produced by Native Earth in 2007.

“I hope that people might use the work as a mirror—to investigate deeper parts of themselves and/or become more curious about the relationship they have to their history and to their present reality.”

From her first creation to her latest work, The Seventh Fire, Ravensbergen continues to give voice to women and to tell stories from the Anishinaabekwe’s perspective. At the same time, she is constantly exploring possibilities within interdisciplinary forms, including the poeticism of myth and dance. “All this to say, I continue to aspire to make the unseen seen…and felt.”

The Seventh Fire was developed with Delinquent Theatre’s (Vancouver) Christine Quintana, who is the dramaturge of the piece. “Lisa has spent time shaping and imagining this world on the page, and now it’s time for this world to meet some ears and minds, and see what happens next.” The Seventh Fire was also developed at Playwrights Theatre Centre as part of the PTC Associates program.

Still in the working stages, Quintana believes the piece “will stir feelings of connection to family and remind audiences of their own resilience”. Ravensbergen hopes the piece will inspire people “to investigate deeper parts of themselves and/or become more curious about the relationship they have to their history and to their present reality.”

Make sure to catch The Seventh Fire on Saturday, November 25th!

More from Lisa C. Ravensbergen

Whose piece are you most looking forward to seeing at W30?
My co-presenter of the evening, Tara Beagan’s piece. I’ve long been a fan of Tara’s artistic ferocity and courage. I also have much respect for the craft she brings to the text. I always learn something from hearing/reading Tara’s work.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
Memories. My dream life. Time and the Mystery it holds. My son and my family’s stories. Oral history and traditional Anishinaabe teachings. My disconnection from my language, community, and traditional land. Living as a visitor in Coast Salish territories and the relationships I’ve grown over 25 years. Nature.

Who is your role model? How do they inspire you?
It’s a three way tie: Margo Kane, Marie Clements, and Yvette Nolan. They embraced me fully when I was a baby artist and because of them, I never had to feel alone in my practice. They continue to show me what it means to be a strong woman and an artist who willingly takes risks. They continue to carve paths for people like me, even when they get nothing or very little in return.

They also continue to have high expectations of me in all aspects of theatre-doing and thanks to their respect and good faith, I have a deep commitment to rigour, Indigenous theatre craft and playing with form, community-giving, and curiosity. I am the artist I am, in large part, thanks to them. And they just keep getting better with age…something I definitely aspire to!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Two adages from my theatre school days still hold true, 16 years after graduating: 1) Don’t work for approval. 2) If you want a job, work the same way on every show. If you want a career, figure out how to work differently.

Do you have any advice for Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Don’t work for approval; work for your Ancestors and the for the Ones Who Will Follow. Honour your collaborations with generosity and courage. Be humble with your power. You never know who will give you your next gig; be kind.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
The simple act of BEING an Indigenous woman in this construct called “Canada” is a political act. Using our voices to speak our stories and our truths is political. Until such time that we, as Indigenous people, are no longer considered a “problem,” our very existence on and off stage is a political act.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
It means everything. It means claiming space for ourselves, our stories, and for the generations to come without the gaze of whiteness and white theatre defining our worth for us.

It means unpacking the colonial baggage of what “theatre” is and transforming our own imaginations. It means facing our fears and dysfunction of using our teachings to create safe and honourable space for our stories to be embodied.

What’s coming up next for you?
Currently doing my masters degree in Cultural Studies (Theatre & Indigenous Art) at Queens; Dramaturge for Valerie Sing Turner’s new play, In the Shadow of the Mountains (Visceral Visions and the National Arts Centre); as Director, remounting Kenneth T. Williams‘ Café Daughter as the Belfry Theatre’s 2018 Spark Festival (Workshop West Playwrights Theatre).

See Lisa C. Ravensbergen’s The Seventh Fire on
Saturday, November 25th @ 7:30pm

Olivia Shortt: “Speak Up Because No One Else Will”

Weesageechak 30 celebrates theatre as an increasingly cross-disciplinary form of art, incorporating music, dance, technology, performance arts and other artistic expressions. We’re thrilled to present Anishinaabe-Irish saxophonist Olivia Shortt and her new work, Echoeswhich combines saxophone, electronics, spoken word and dance.

“It’s a very personal piece, and I didn’t want to create it until I felt more comfortable with myself as a person and knew how to find my voice.”

“I’m inspired by a variety of people: artists in theatre, dance, music, visual art and the sound art worlds. I have always had a semi-secret love for theatre and the visual representations of a story. Although I studied classical and contemporary music in school, it never felt like it satisfied my spirit completely.” Interdisciplinary work has been the way for Shortt to fill the holes in fully expressing her stories. “When I first thought of [Echoes], I saw it as a dance and music piece presented as theatre.”

Echoes shares a story of genealogy and family, drawing out family trees, recalling memories and echoing ancestors into the space. “It’s a very personal piece, and I didn’t want to create it until I felt more comfortable with myself as a person and knew how to find my voice. I moved to Tkaronto ten years ago and hadn’t settled into the person I wanted to be until quite recently.”

Collaborating with dance artist and choreographer Kathleen Legassick, Shortt hopes the audience will be able to take fragments within the piece and imagine themselves inside them. “Like what the title of my piece suggests, these fragments are echoes of memories long past, and I want to audience to piece together their own story from my memories.”

Make sure to catch Olivia Shortt‘s interdisciplinary piece, Echoes on Thursday, November 23.

More from Olivia Shortt

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W30?
The Weekend by Henrietta Baird. This past summer I went to Sydney and Melbourne and had the pleasure of meeting Henrietta in August as well as hanging out with members of Moogahlin Performing Arts. I love the work they do and am so excited to see Henrietta’s work come alive in Tkaronto.

What is your most memorable performance?
A recording I did in March 2017 – myself and another saxophonist did a recording session of music by Robert Lemay in a Neutrino Lab that is located two kilometres underground near Sudbury, Ontario.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Cole Alvis, Yolanda Bonnell and Brittany Ryan – I’ve worked with all three of these incredible humans in a variety of capacities and couldn’t pick just one role model. They are some of the most supportive, beautiful and talented Indigenous artists I’ve worked with over the last few years. In a time where I’m starting to find my own strength as an artist, these three humans have shown me so much love, and helped me in more ways than I could ever write here.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be okay with failing.

Do you have any advice for new Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Ask people who inspire you or interest you artistically to have coffee/breakfast/lunch with you. Ask them about how they do the work they do and why they do it. Share knowledge over a meal. It’s the best way to learn.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Sometimes you have to speak up for the voices you represent because no one else will.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
Strength, beauty and power storytelling.

What is coming up next for you?
My saxophone duo has two big concerts happening in the upcoming year. The first is being presented in February at the Canadian Music Centre. In June, we’re performing in Kitchener-Waterloo during the Open Ears Festival.

See Olivia Shortt’s Echoes on
Thursday, November 23rd @ 7:30pm