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
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