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
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