Message from Keith

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.

Meet Keith
Day One: Meet n’ Greet (Click for more pictures)

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.

jon cropped

 

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.

Keith Barker
Artistic Director