Category Archives: Weesageechak

Olivia C. Davies: “We are the storytellers of our existence”

From Rene Highway to Santee Smith, Indigenous dance has held an important place in Native Earth’s 34-year history. Year after year, dance is developed as a part of Weesageechak Begins to Dance, and this year is no different. This year’s celebration of Indigenous dance will showcase the work of three of today’s most exciting Indigenous dance artists.

Olivia C. Davies

Making her second appearance in the festival is Métis/Anishnaabe/Welsh dancer and choreographer Olivia C. Davies  with her newest work, Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone. 

This York University graduate, and co-founder of MataDanze Collective, comes to the festival from Vancouver where she created Crow’s Nest with celebrated Sahtu Dene/Coast Salish storyteller Rosemary Georgeson.

This series of dance vignettes tells the story of Mama Crow, a woman coming to terms with her new circumstances. “[It] is a story about one woman’s awakening to the reality she exists in and the choice she makes to change,” Davies explains. “To recalibrate her compass in order to gather up what she has lost along the way.”

Davies drew inspiration for the piece from the way Indigenous women move in and out of their comfort zones. “We are caught in a world of diminishing returns; no matter how hard we try to maintain our traditions, society requires us to live a certain way.” This is something Davies has seen first-hand. “I know of many women who leave behind their life in one place to find happiness somewhere else.”

“As Indigenous creators, we are transformers of space, place, and time. We are the storytellers of our existence.”

Developing her work at this Indigenous performing arts festival not only provides the platform and support for Davies’ work, but also the connection to community. “As Indigenous creators, we are transformers of space, place, and time. We are the storytellers of our existence,” says Davies. “By sharing stories of transformation, I hope that others may be inspired to reflect on their personal narratives and be the change they want to see in the world.”

Davies will develop this work with the support of dramaturg Alejandro Ronceria. See Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone  on Thursday, November 17th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with other dance works by Christine Friday and Aria Evans.

Something More from Olivia C. Davies

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

Christine Friday’s Maggie and Me.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
Starr Muranko is one of my role models, as are Santee Smith, Michelle Olson, Lara Kramer and Maura Garcia. These are matriarchs of the contemporary Indigenous dance world who are pursuing their craft and exchanging their knowledge with the future generation of creators.

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
Make space in your life to receive the gifts bestowed upon you.
Let go of what no longer serves you. Give back what you can.

What superpower would you like to have? Why?
Ability to fly. I have a recurring dream where I am running and then I gradually lift off and take flight – it feels very real,
like I’m swimming on an air-stream.

What is your favourite pastime?
Reading fiction novels about other peoples’ lives;
anything by David Sedaris.

What is your most memorable performance?
NGS (Native Girl Syndrome) by Lara Kramer. The show left an indelible mark on my psyche and my creative spirit was forever changed.

What are you craving right now?
End to land claim rights activists’ imprisonment.

What is coming up next for you?
After Weesagechak 29, I continue developing Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone with residency at Studio 303 in Montreal, residency at The Dance Centre in Vancouver,
and premiere of full-length work in May 2017.

To me, art is:
The antidote to the terror that threatens to overtake my Spirit when I pay attention to the sadness and suffering in the world around me.

You can catch Olivia C. Davies’
Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone
Thursday, November 17th @ 7:30pm

Frances Koncan: “Embrace that discomfort”

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.”

zahgidiwin/love at Winnipeg Fringe Festival | Frances Koncan

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.

Something More from Frances Koncan

What piece are you looking forward to seeing
at Weesageechak 29?
Drew Hayden Taylor’s piece!
Also Gwen Benaway and anything Yolanda Bonnell does!

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics
through Indigenous art?

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.

You can catch France Koncan’s zahgidiwin/love on
Saturday, November 12th @ 7:30pm

Craig Lauzon: “See us the way we see ourselves.”

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.

Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, audiences will be familiar with the work of Anishnabeg/English/French actor and writer Craig Lauzon. Most recognized as a member of CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce, Lauzon has been nominated for several awards for his work in theatre, TV and film.

Craig Lauzon at Weesageechak 24
Weesageechak 24 – L to R: David Geary, Ben Cardinal, Craig Lauzon, Jonathan Fisher, Sarah Podemski, Sundance Crowe

On Thursday November 10th, Lauzon will share with audiences a new play in its earliest stages. Currently a series of monologues, Lauzon’s Group tells the story of a woman struggling with learning that the husband she was about to leave has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

It was the idea of “living” grief that inspired Lauzon to write Group. “The anger, the guilt, the stress of having a loved one dying while you wait for it to happen and have no power to do anything about it,” explains Lauzon. “It’s a common thing and I don’t think we talk about it enough.”

Helping Lauzon develop his work is director/dramaturg, two-time Governor General’s Award nominee, and former Native Earth General Manager, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. It is a return for both artists to the Indigenous works festival, an institution Lauzon believes is important for the Indigenous community.

“Telling stories from our point of view, so that our community can see themselves on stage or in stories – it’s huge.

“Telling stories from our point of view, so that our community can see themselves on stage or in stories – it’s huge. It also gives people outside the community the opportunity to see us the way we see ourselves and not just what they think we’re like or what they see in Hollywood movies.”

Past Artistic Associate for Native Earth, Lauzon is glad to be developing his work in the long-standing festival. “Weesageechak and Native Earth Performing Arts are home to me. There is no safer place for me to dig into something.”

When asked what he hopes audiences will take away from seeing Group, Lauzon is not yet sure. “I think all good theatre makes you feel something good or bad, I don’t know what that something is. Hopefully it is what the characters are feeling.”

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

Something More from Craig Lauzon

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

Brad Fraser’s Ménage à Trois.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?

August Schellenberg. I had the great fortune of working with him when he played King Lear in the all Indigenous cast of the NAC production of King Lear. I don’t think that I am alone in being inspired by him. Augie, when he decided to do something, did it all the way. He was a boxer as a young man, he sang and when he decided he wanted to act he got himself into the National Theatre School and trained, hard. He was and may still be the oldest student they ever had but he wasn’t fazed by it he wanted to learn.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Train, train, train and when you think you know it all
train some more.

What is coming up next for you?
Video Cabaret’s next installation Confederation: Part 1 and Confederation: Part 2. Two incredible plays about the confederation of Canada. They will be playing at the Soulpepper Theatre beginning in May. I’ll be playing Louis Riel and others.

To me, art is:

You can catch Craig Lauzon’s Group on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm

Sable Sweetgrass: “You’ll Laugh and You’ll Cry”

True to the heart of the festival, the final evening of Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 will include a mix of new works by established and emerging artists. Alongside readings from Drew Hayden Taylor and Kenneth T. Williams will be a play by emerging playwright Sable Sweetgrass, from the Kainai Nation in Southern Alberta.

A graduate from the University of Calgary, Sable Sweetgrass is taking a break from the Institute of American Indian Arts where she is currently completing her Masters of Fine Arts to participate in the festival. “Weesageechak is innovative, a place that is known for nurturing new artists and I’m still learning about writing for performance. I love that there is a place for emerging and seasoned artists to work together.”

Sweetgrass is a first place winner of the Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition for her 2006 short story, Maternal Ties. Continuing her focus on family, Sweetgrass brings to the festival Awowakii, a play, she explains, portraying the modern realities and traditional roles of two spirit peoples, including their role in adopting orphaned children.

“…it’s a story about family and the unique and diverse families that exist today”

“It’s a play that looks at the long term, generational effects alcohol has had on Native people and families, something that we are all to familiar with. Most of all it’s a story about family and the unique and diverse families that exist today, have always existed. I am a woman who has experienced gender transition. I am also a parent, so the themes in this story are very important to me.”

According to Sweetgrass, on this final night of the festival, audiences can expect a full range of emotion. “You’ll laugh and you’ll cry. You’ll get to meet some of the most dynamic Indigenous artists from around the world.”

Following Weesageechak, Sweetgrass will return to complete her MFA in creative writing, and focus on her next script, which explores the museum culture, repatriation and sexual assault by an Elder.

To learn more about Sable and her play Awowakii, read her article on Muskrat Magazine.

Some bits and bobs about Sable Sweetgrass

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Don’t wait around for inspiration, you just have to write
and learn to appreciate the writing process.

What are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading all of Louise Erdrich’s books as well as
Blood Sport by my friend and mentor Eden Robinson.

Where is your favorite place to be?
With my son Zack, my family and friends.

Who is one of your heroes?
My mama.

Thanks Sable!

Read about the other playwrights featured on closing night:
Drew Hayden Taylor and Kenneth T. Williams

You can catch Sable Sweetgrass’s Awowakii on
Saturday, Nov 22nd @ 7:30pm.
More About Tickets

Justin Many Fingers: “Close to Home”

The penultimate night of Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 puts the spotlight on dancers, both emerging and established. Dancing in this spotlight is three-time festival participant Justin Many Fingers, a singer, actor and dancer from Lavern Kainai Blackfoot reserve, in Southern Alberta.

Justin ManyFingers 2Graduate of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Justin Many Fingers also attended the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Dance Residence, Toronto Dance Theatre’s Summer Intensive and Kahawi Dance Theatre’s training program. Many Fingers returns to the festival time and again because he believes Weesageechak is one of the few festivals that inspire Native works in dance or theatre in Canada.

“Native Earth hounds in on the new work that will become additions to the Native cannon. They give the tools for artists to show or create their ideas, and help give a strong foundation to new works so that it can one day be fully produced.”

This year, Many Fingers is collaborating with Brian Solomon on a new, very personal movement piece, called What’s Left of Us. “Growing up in life, my left hand was never discussed or mentioned, it just was. In my second year at Centre for Indigenous Theatre, I worked on a show with Muriel Miguel and my character was based on my left hand. So many things came up as I was artistically exploring, that never left when the show ended,” says Many Fingers.

So many things came up as I was artistically exploring, that never left when the show ended.

The story returned to Many Fingers during his time in the Soulpepper Academy, and again a year later. “I was laying in bed and I said ‘Ok Justin, we are going to make a show about our left hand.’ I knew I needed to create this with someone, and I immediately thought of Brian Solomon. He made my time at School of Toronto Dance Theatre a lot easier and less awkward because he found a way to dance with his left hand. The time we have spent so far in the studio rehearsing, leading up to our night in the festival, has been amazing. And the depths we went to in physically and emotionally exploring… I  am very excited to present our first ideas on stage of What’s Left Of Us.

Justin has trained in numerous dance styles with Jock Sotto (American Ballet), Neil Leremia (Black Grace), Santee Smith (Kahawi), as well as Bill Coleman, Penny Couchie, Troy Emery Twigg, Alejandro Ronceria and Amanda Chaboyer. Select credits: Red Romance (dir. Muriel Miguel), Red Moon(dir. Marion de Vries), Coyote City (dir. Rose Stella), Potato Foot (dir. Imelda Villalon).

Some bits and bobs from Justin ManyFingers

Why Weesageechak Begins to Dance?
The work brought in by the artists is so diverse that it shows you a pallet of what’s cooking in the world of Indigenous arts.

What will audiences get out of the festival?
It may be Native but it’s a part of us all,
so come see a story that is close to home.

Thanks Justin!

Read about fellow Dancers:
Santee Smith, Starr Murkanko, & Brian Solomon

You can catch What’s Left of Us on
Friday, Nov 21st @ 7:30pm.
More About Tickets

Starr Muranko: “Telling Fearless Stories”

Native Earth’s annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 is not just about new written work, but also explores new movement pieces. We’re proud to include Starr Muranko, Artistic Associate with Raven Spirit Dance and member of the Dancers of Damelahamid, in this year’s evening dedicated to dance .

Dancer/choreographer and educator, Starr Muranko, of mixed Cree (Moose Cree First Nation), German & French ancestry, has trained, performed and presented her research in Peru, New Zealand, Holland, India, Ghana and the USA. Muranko comes to the festival from Vancouver to share her work in development with Weesageechak audiences.

“Weesageechak is an amazing opportunity to be able to come together as a community and share our stories, celebrate our various artistic expressions and support one another to continue to move forward in our individual and collective work.”

As a part of Weesageechak’s Evening of Dance,  Muranko will be sharing an excerpt of her new work being developed, titled Spine of the Mother, with dancers Tasha Faye Evans and Andrea Patriau. The piece is a collaboration between artists in Canada and Peru based on a teaching shared by the Elders in South America that the Andes mountain range is the Spine of Mother Earth and connects us as people from the base in Argentina all the way up to the tip in Alaska.

“…this energy is activated through breath, impulse and a kinetic chain both in our own bodies as woman and within Mother Earth.”

“When I first heard this teaching many years ago it stirred something in me and has been living inside every since. We are exploring how this energy is activated through breath, impulse and a kinetic chain both in our own bodies as woman and within Mother Earth. It is a remembering of our connection between the North and the South as Indigenous people and this work-in-progress is a desire to find those connections in a deeper way.”

Bringing this piece to the Aki Studio was an obvious choice. “The festival programs an eclectic mix each year of up and coming artists, new works in progress and seasoned professionals that are telling fearless stories,” says Muranko. “It is a place to come and expand your ideas, challenge your perceptions and take in some of Canada’s greatest art all in once location.”

With the distance between them, Muranko and her collaborators have developed their material through online rehearsals periods via Skype.  After Weesageechak, they will continue this process to further develop the piece, then Muranko will head down to Peru to work with artists there. Audiences can check out the finished work at their premiere in Vancouver at the Dance Centre in the Fall of 2015.

Some bits and bobs about Starr Muranko

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? To begin. Even if you don’t know how, just start. Surround yourself by mentors, Elders and good people. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to take risks, it will only help you to grow and develop both as an artist and as a person. Don’t be afraid to think big ideas, you have a voice and perspective that is unique to you, that is a gift. Begin.

What’s your favourite dessert?
Definitely any kind of cheesecake :-)

What’s your quote?
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anaïs Nin

Where is your favorite place to be?
Out in nature, sun shining and hearing the ocean.

Thanks Starr!

Read about fellow Dancers:
Santee Smith, Justin ManyFingers, & Brian Solomon

You can catch Starr Muranko’s Spine of the Mother on
Friday, Nov 21st @ 7:30pm.
More About Tickets

Tawata Productions: “Good People, Focus, and Vision”

Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 marks the return to Native Earth’s annual development festival for the international Indigenous company, Tawata Productions. From Aotearoa New Zealand, co-founders Hone Kouka and Miria George, along with fellow artist Jamie McCaskill, join Algonquin artist Yvette Nolan for an international collaboration.

Hone Kouka
Hone Kouka

Hone Kouka (Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Kahungunu) is an acclaimed Maori writer, winner of the Bruce Mason Award and multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. He and Miria George (Te Arawa, Ngati Awa; Rarotonga, Atiu) founded Tawata Productions in 2004, where they develop and produce new work from Aotearoa New Zealand, presenting a diverse Indigenous vision for the world beyond. He is proud to give Weesageechak audiences the chance to see a “global Indigenous view.”

Miria George
Miria George

George is a poet, and writer for theatre, radio and television, and an award-winning playwright, whose work has been performed at festivals and theatres New Zealand, Australia, Hawai’i, Canada and the United Kingdom. Being a part of a festival with Indigenous artists, and Indigenous stories is what drives her to want to participate in Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27.

Jamie McCaskill
Jamie McCaskill

Joining George and Kouka, is Jamie McCaskill (Ngati Tamatera/Ngati Rangi/Nga Puhi), a graduate from UCOL Theatre School, writer, actor, musician and producer and the recipient of the Bruce Mason Award for NZ Emerging Playwright of the Year 2013. McCaskill was last in Toronto for Planet IndigenUS in 2009 with He Reo Aroha, co-written with George.

For this festival, the three artists are collaborating with Nolan, on a piece called Waka/Ciimaan, which are the Maori and Anishinaabemowin words for canoe. “We recognize that water – wai in Māori, nibi in Anishinaabemowin – is a driving force in both our creation stories and ultimately the connecting link between all of humanity.”

Once the group departs from Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27, they will begin working on independent projects. McCaskill will get right back to work performing in a play and writing about “raw rural men.” Kouka’s feature film Born To Dance recently completed shooting and, next up is his feature Puawai’s Flowers, which is currently in development. Meanwhile George is working tirelessly at completing her latest script, The Vultures. 

Some bits and bobs about
Miri George, Hone Kouka & Jamie McCaskill

Who is one of your favorite writers/playwrights?
MG: Junot Diaz
MK: Hone Tuwhare

Describe your ideal writing environment.
JC: With good people, focus, and vision.

What was your first job in theatre?
MG: As a writer of my own work.
JC: As an actor in Theatre & Education.
MK: Same as Jamie.

What ability would you like to steal from another artist?
MG: I would fly.
JC: I would like to be able to dance.

What are you reading right now?
JC: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
MK: A biography on the life of French poet Arthur Rimbaud
MG: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
ALL: Weetabix, the national cereal of New Zealand.

Thanks Miri, Hune, & Jamie!

Read about co-creator Yvette Nolan

You can catch Waka/Ciimaan on Thursday, Nov 20th @ 7:30pm.
More About Tickets

Jessica Lea Fleming: “The Power of Forgiveness”

A staple element of Native Earth’s annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 is to introduce audiences to the playwrights participating in Native Earth’s Animikiig Training Program. Another of the four of these emerging playwrights is Métis artist Jessica Lea Fleming, from Penetanguishene, of Wendat and French descent.

Jessica Lea Fleming is an actor, writer, producer, arts manager and improviser based in Toronto. She studied Drama at the University of Guelph, completed the Second City Conservatory Program in 2013, and currently works as the Development Manager for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

This marks the first time Fleming will be participating in the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival, and she is proud to be a part of it. “Weesageechak represents everything wonderful about Indigenous theatre: mentorship, community and an insatiable appetite for inspiration.”

She will be sharing her fifth play, Without Icing, the story of an estranged father and daughter who reunite after living difficult lives. “I’ve been thinking about this play for years now, but finally had the guts to start writing it about a year ago,” says Fleming. “It’s about the power of forgiveness.”

“There is something really special and exciting about getting the chance to access a partially completed world.”

About bringing her work to the Weesageechak audiences, Fleming says, “There is something really special and exciting about getting the chance to access a partially completed world. The audience gets to play such a significant role. Unlike in final productions, reactions, feedback and questions shape everything!”

Fleming’s most recent complete play Blue Moon Girls debuted at the 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival where it garnered rave reviews and won Now Magazine’s “Best Ensemble”.  Fleming is currently writing her first feature screenplay (Maison Métisse) and wrapping production on her first short film (you are home).

A Board Member at The Theatre Centre and a contributor at Urban Native Magazine, she would like you to tweet pictures of animals to her: @JessFlamingo

Some bits and bobs about Jessica Lea Fleming

What are you looking forward to this Weesageechak?
Mingling with all the beautiful people of course!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? Work with people you respect and be kind and disciplined.

What was your first job in theatre?
A nightmare

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Taking risks in a society that values money more than art.

What’s your favourite dessert?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Actually, in the last week I’ve received three great pieces of advice:
“confront yourself” – Archer Pechawis
“go for truth” – Julia Pileggi
“take your punctuation seriously” – Andrea Romaldi

What are you thinking right before you begin a play?

The one word your best friend would use to describe you?
I texted both of them to find out just for you! One said “giving” the other said “enthusiastic, engaged, open-minded and MAD HOT”.
I really thought they were going to say bossy.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?
My sweet hunk of a man.

Thanks Jessica!

Read about fellow Animikiig Playwrights:
Cheyenne Scott &  Darla Contois

You can catch Jessica Lea Fleming’s Without Icing on
Wednesday, Nov 19th @ 7:30pm.
More About Tickets

Cheyenne Scott: “Reconnecting to The Community”

A staple element of Native Earth’s annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 is to introduce audiences to the playwrights participating in Native Earth’s Animikiig Training Program. This year four of these emerging playwrights will share their work. One of which is Coast Salish First Nation and a multidisciplinary artist, Cheyenne Scott.

Graduate of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, and winner of a Dora Award for Outstanding Ensemble, Cheyenne Scott joined Native Earth’s Animikiig Training Program in January of this year.

Scott is bringing Weesageechak audiences her play, Uprooted, about an unexpected pregnancy that causes a family to reconsider their life choices in preparation for the next generation.

Scott says Uprooted is about reconnecting to the community, to the earth, and to family. “I wanted to examine contemporary Canadian Indigenous issues and give voice to youth. I wanted to express that being Indigenous is far more complex than living on reserve or poverty or activism. There are full bloods, half bloods, mixed bloods, Métis, on reserve, off reserve, a variety of nations each with their own teachings. I wanted to tell stories that spoke to urban Indigenous people. How the culture and teachings can exist and still affect our lives today.”

“an accessible way for me to dive in and research and discover and celebrate my culture”

Working with Director/Dramaturg Brian Quirt, Scott is using the Weesageechak festival process to share something very personal.  “I was separated from my Indigenous family and art is an accessible way for me to dive in and research and discover and celebrate my culture and then take the opportunity to express what I have learned and how it is relevant to me today.”

Scott performed with Native Earth for the first time this year at SpringWorks alongside Justin ManyFingers in Savage, a made-to-order script directed by Jessica Carmichael. Scott is also a winner of the Best New Media Award for her interactive audio/visual piece “UHKE” at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival.

Some bits and bobs about Cheyenne Scott

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? Having friends and hobbies outside of theatre and the arts is extremely necessary. Life experience and diversity is not only good for mental health but for creating dynamic characters.
Otherwise, it’s easy to get trapped creating characters that are representations of other theatre characters.

What comes to mind when you think of Weesageechak?

What’s next?
Working towards first documentary short with mentorship from Shane Belcourt and Michelle Latimer.

Thanks Cheyenne!

Read about fellow Animikiig Playwrights:
Jessica Lea Fleming &  Darla Contois

You can catch Cheyenne Scott’s Uprooted on
Wednesday, Nov 19th @ 7:30pm.
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Dénommé-Welch & Magowan: “The Best Place to Find Tricks(ters)”

Native Earth’s annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance 27 is a place where artists from all stages of their career bring their new work to be heard, often for the first time. Returning to the festival are Dora-nominated co-founders of An Indie(n) Rights Reserve, Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan.

Spy Dénommé-Welch

Multi-disciplinary artist Spy Dénommé-Welch (Algonquin), and bassoonist and composer Catherine Magowan co-created the Dora-nominated opera, Giiwedin, which debuted in a co-production with Native Earth in 2010. The pair return to Weesageechak, which they describe as “THE place to see new, upcoming, and established Indigenous theatre creators and performers. You really don’t know what you’re going to get, especially if we’re involved.”

Dénommé-Welch and Magowan will share their new piece, Victorian Secrets, a new sexy cabaret for actors and honky-tonk piano that draws on the aesthetics of silent film, musical theatre, parody and satire. “Weesageechak doesn’t seem to blink at our projects, which can be kinda off-the-wall.”

Catherine Magowan
Catherine Magowan

“The piece started with Spy’s idea to purchase old photos at a shop in Kensington, which would serve as the inspiration for vignettes that explore constructs of sexuality and repression by juxtaposing Victorian and contemporary language and technologies,” Magowan explains.

Magowan has been principal bassoonist with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra since 2002 and regularly performs across Ontario. Her electric bassoon band, Das Fagott Mannschaft (“the bassoon team” in German) has been making a splash in and around Toronto. Other work for Magowan and Dénommé-Welch includes the composition of shorter works for chamber ensemble, including Deux Poèmes Sur La Formation Des Glaces and Bike Rage, which won the 2013 Baroque Idol composer competition.

“Weesageechak doesn’t seem to blink at our projects, which can be kinda off-the-wall.”

Together, in addition to creating cabarets and operas, Dénommé-Welch and Magowan are two halves of the comedy duo Professor Quack & Grunt, delivering scintillating lectures at poetry festivals and book launches. And next up for the pair is a premiere with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra on January 17, 2015, and a second full-length epic opera they are creating with the support of Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and various musical commissions.

Some bits and bobs about
Spy Dénommé-Welch & Catherine Magowan

Victorian Secrets image

Describe the Weesageechak festival.
SDW/CM: It’s the best place to find Tricks(ters).

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
CM: Marry rich.
SDW: Yeah.
CM: Too bad neither of us fit into that category…
SDW: Yeah…I guess I’ll keep buying lotto tickets?

What’s your favourite dessert?
SDW: Mine is pumpkin pie, with lots of whipped cream on top.
CM: Key lime pie, or any similarly citrus-with-whipped-cream-on-top creation. It’s a theme for us.

What’s your favorite line from a song?
SDW/CM: Blame Canada.

What are you reading right now?
SDW: I just finished [Andrew Rae’s]
Moonhead and the Music Machine
CM: I’ve been stuck on the last Game of Thrones
[by George R.R. Martin] for the past year…

Who would you most like to have dinner with?
SDW/CM: The Trailer Park Boys.
Not the actors, the characters. All of them.

Thanks Spy & Catherine!

You can catch Victorian Secrets on Tuesday, Nov 18th @ 7:30pm.
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