All posts by Native Earth

Billy McPherson: “a true story of identity”

Our annual festival of Indigenous works aims to provide a platform to unite Indigenous voices from around the world. Weesageechak Begins to Dance exists to strengthen the Indigenous presence in the arts community, and in addition to the Canadian voice, this year’s festival includes work from the USA and Australia.

Billy McPherson in rehearsals at Weesageechak

Making his  debut at Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is Kamillaroi filmmaker, actor and writer Billy McPherson with his play Cuz, directed by Frederick Copperwaite of Australia’s Moogahlin Performing Arts.

Wishing to expose the realities of the Australian Indigenous experience, McPherson’s Cuz is an autobiographical play that tackles themes of identity and shadeism.

“This is a true story of identity, of my dear cousin and myself over 45 years growing up from little kids (gunnadoos) to the present,” explains McPherson. “I wanted to share… what it is like for Aboriginal people in Australia to have to deal with not being identified as an Aboriginal person, because of my cousin’s fair skin complexion.”

Before now, McPherson worked primarily as a filmmaker – his film Nalingu was screened at Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival -and Cuz marks McPherson’s first attempt at playwriting.

Driven to create work that can be shared with First Nations people around the world, McPherson describes Cuz as a play “about identity and being proud – not giving up hope as an Aboriginal, and believing in yourself regardless of the struggles we encounter everyday in our lives.”

L-R: Billy McPherson, Joelle Peters, Cliff Cardinal, Frederick Copperwaite, Ryan Cunningham in rehearsals for Cuz

Although this will be McPherson’s first time visiting Canada, he shares Native Earth’s vision behind the festival – to further the Indigenous voice on the world stage.

“We are the original storytellers,” says McPherson, and Indigenous theatre and dance is “to record our history and to tell our stories to the wider audiences. I am now very thankful to Native Earth and Ryan Cunningham for inviting Cuz for reading at Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival.”

McPherson’s Cuz will be presented on Wednesday November 16th at 7:30 pm in the Aki Studio, with performances by Cliff Cardinal, Joelle Peters, and Native Earth’s Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham.

Something more from Billy McPherson

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

It’s my first time to Canada so definitely meeting
and greeting First Nations art and people.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
I was inspired by many great Aboriginal artists and creators from my early rise in the theatre world back in 1988, especially from a original pioneer with Aunty Oogeroo Noonuccul nee (Kath Walker).
She was instrumental to myself with telling me in believing in myself, to be proud of who I am and to record our history to pass onto the next generation. Also Kevin Smith a famous Aboriginal actor from Sydney, New South Wales, who had taken me under his wings to guide and assist me with my craft. I am forever thankful to these two dear friends and peers. Both are now in the dreamtime.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Art is politics and politics is arts, so I have many questions needing answering. But in meantime, I will continue to tell our Indigenous stories from Australia.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Record your black history and never give up.
Learning everyday in my life.
Also to take it as it comes everyday.

What superpower would you like to have? Why?
I would like to have a magic boomerang… and be the hero for our Indigenous people so that every time the world is in crisis I can throw my boomerang and it freezes other people around the world in time… Just imagine turning back time and…  turning away the Captain Cook invasion in Australia in 1770.

What is your favourite pastime?
Boxing training and sparring sessions with mates I enjoy,
and going to the theatre and listening to Indigenous music.

What are you craving right now?
I’m nervous and excited and craving for actors reading my play Cuz.  Also, meeting new friends from Canada and from around the world. (Oh and a can of lemonade too…)

What is coming up next for you?
I’m in rehearsals for a new play, Home Country, with
Urban Theatre Projects as part of the Sydney Festival
program that opens in January 2017.

To me, art is:
Art is intimating life and telling our stories.

See Billy McPherson’s Cuz on
Wednesday, November 16th @ 7:30pm

Dean Gabourie: “the voices that will save our society.”

Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 has opened and each night we will continue to share new work by incredibly talented Indigenous creators. Thursday night we welcome a line-up of playwrights with work in very early stages, including work by director, teacher, actor, writer and Founding Artistic Director of the award-winning ACME Theatre Co., Dean Gabourie.

Gabourie has been creating provocative theatre in Canada and abroad for over twenty-five years. Graduate of Ryerson Theatre School, and past Assistant / Associate Artistic Director at the Stratford Festival, this Métis theatre practitioner makes his debut in the Weesageechak festival with Wounded Heart Stampede.

The Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. 1950.

A play in its earliest stages, Wounded Heart Stampede is centered on a man who wakes up, still drunk, under the Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. Gabourie describes the play as “a journey taken by many of mixed blood, a story of self-mockery, self-indulgence and self-discovery.”

Gabourie was inspired to create the piece on his journey to Calgary, Alberta for the One Yellow Rabbit Summer Lab in 2005. But, at the time, that is where it ended. “I purchased the props, outlined the story arc and almost immediately stopped, ” he explained. “I wrote and performed an entirely different piece.”

Over a decade later, he is ready to return to the play, and for Gabourie there is no question that Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is the place for that development. “For me, it was the only place I felt I could share this piece, otherwise it would have never seen the light of day.”

Though this marks Gabourie’s first time presenting work in the Weesageechak festival, he has been deeply involved with Native Earth Performing Arts in the past. Gabourie believes in the need to make space for Indigenous performing arts, and asserts that “these are the voices that will save our society.”

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

Some More from Dean Gabourie

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
Brad Fraser’s Ménage à Trois.
I adore and respect his work.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
August Schellenberg and his creative courage and ability
to achieve at anything he attempted.

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
Courage, to have the mental and physical strength to overcome fears.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Everything is political, on some level… address away.

What superpower would you like to have?
Invisibility, the ability to disappear and reappear would be so useful on so many levels.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Your words and opinions are not worth hurting another’s feelings.

What is your favourite pastime?

What is your most memorable performance?
A one-man Medea at Middlesex University.

What are you craving right now?

What is coming up next for you?
Directing Hamlet for Shakespeare in Detroit

To me, art is:
To inform and delight.

See Dean Gabourie’s Wounded Heart Stampede on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard: “hungry for the stories”

The creators developing work through Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 are not alone. By their side throughout the development process are trusted dramaturgs, there to guide and challenge the creator as they push the work to new places.  We have a great number of respected dramaturgs participating in the festival this year, including the revered Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.

Native Earth
Snapshot from Native Earth 2007. Clockwise from top: Catherine Hernandez, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Yvette Nolan, Erika Iserhoff

Currently the Playwright-in-Residence at lemonTree creations and Emcee-in-Residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard previously spent eight years as General Manager for Native Earth Performing Arts.  During this time, St. Bernard helped hundreds of Indigenous artists to develop their work, and she returns to do more of the same as dramaturg for Anishnabeg playwright Craig Lauzon.

Two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award, St. Bernard credits her time working alongside past Native Earth Artistic Director Yvette Nolan as having shaped her personal and professional ethic. “Her insistence that the work always comes first, that it never ends, that it’s worth it,” explains St. Bernard. “Her ability to acknowledge ‘exit wounds’ without ceasing forward movement. Tireless.”

Group by Craig Lauzon
L-R: Chelsea Rose Tucker, Craig Lauzon, Jesse Nobess, DM St. Bernard, Cheri Maracle, Jeremy Proulx, Samantha Brown

St. Bernard is working with Craig Lauzon on Group, a series of monologues Lauzon is developing into a full-length play. She returns to the festival to satiate her appetite for performance that aligns with her values.

“I am hungry for the stories of the place where I am,” she says. “Indigenous performance is one of the few places where I see my values reinforced, challenged and clarified onstage.”

Finally, when asked why Indigenous theatre and dance is important to her, St. Bernard responded, “Because I have a strong preference for things that are amazing.”

See Craig Lauzon’s Group, with dramaturgy by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard on Thursday November 10 at 7:30pm.

Something More from Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
The 2-Spirit Cabaret!!

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
The traditional teaching I most identify with artistically is Humility, because it is hard. I live in the struggle to strike a balance, to shine out at full wattage without overshadowing equally worthy peers and collaborators, to correct course when necessary.

What superpower would you like to have?
I’m good, thanks.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Try your best, even if no one is watching.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
To choose not to address political topics directly does not prevent one’s worldview from informing every choice.
So good luck with that.

What is your most memorable performance?
Channeling Live for Sulong Theatre’s Operation Lifeboat,
where I participated from 3,000 km away.

What are you craving right now?
A wicked graphic novel by an author of whom I am currently unaware.

What is coming up next for you?
I am currently developing my new show, Sound of the Beast with Theatre Passe Muraille as their Emcee-in-Residence.

To me, art is:

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

Header Image by Denise Grant c/o Playwrights Canada Press

J Miko Thomas: “these stories need to be told”

At this year’s Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival, Native Earth will present the inaugural 2-Spirit Cabaret, in partnership with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. This unique and exciting cabaret will entertain with performances by six 2-Spirit, Queer and Trans-identified Indigenous artists from Canada and around the world.

Landa Lakes
c/o Landa Lakes Facebook

J Miko Thomas, a Chickasaw writer, musician, activist and drag performance artist joins this year’s festival all the way from San Francisco. Performing in the 2-Spirit Cabaret as Landa Lakes, Thomas looks to the Indigenous presence in the history of her hometown as inspiration for her work. “Growing up in Oklahoma, I was always fascinated by the traditional stories. When I get the chance, it is always so great to be able to share them.”

For her first time in the Weesageechak festival, Thomas will perform Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? (What Happened to Little Mouse?), which explores her Chicksaw and 2-Spirit identity. Developed as a multidisciplinary theatrical production, and first performed at the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco, Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? takes the audience through the ancient world of Southeastern Tribal origin stories using traditional masks, pantomime and live music.

“I want the stories to reflect the reality of the culture”

“I have always believed that these stories need to be told, but at the same time I’ve heard stories retooled and repacked in a way to make it easier for the Western ear to appreciate.” Thomas explains. “I want the stories to reflect the reality of the culture, not a carefully controlled PR – polite ones for the kids.”

For this reason, Thomas hopes audiences will see her work and take from it a greater understanding of the differences, but also the similiarities between her culture and their own.

J Miko Thomas will perform an excerpt of Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? during the 2-Spirit Cabaret on Friday November 11th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, along with Cherish Voilet Blood, Gwen Benaway, Michaela Washburn, Miss Ellaneous, Raven Davis, Smith Purdy and Caitlin Thrasher.

Something More from J Miko Thomas

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

I am looking forward to seeing everything; it’s exciting.

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

My sister inspires me every day;
she is a strong Native woman and to be frank is my hero!

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
I most identify with the traditional teaching of the path that we walk – sometimes the way is hard while other times it easy
but no one can walk it for you, each of us walks it alone.

What are you craving right now?
Pashofa (corn soup).

What superpower would you like to have? 
I’d love to be able to read a person’s mind,
that way I wouldn’t have to argue as hard to change them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t live up to others expectations but decide what you want to do.

What is coming up next for you?
A piece I am working on for July for the
Queer Cultural Centers Festival.

To me, art is:

You can catch J Miko Thomas as Landa Lakes
in the inaugural
2-Spirit Cabaret at Buddies
Friday, November 11th @ 10:00 pm

Tickets for the 2-Spirit Cabaret include access to
the imagineNATIVE film screening
in Aki Studio @ 7:30 pm

Banner Photo c/o Jorge Rivas/Fusion

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

Meet Our Team

As we launch a season celebrating  transformations, it’s fitting that the team at Native Earth has also be shifting. This summer, we expanded our box office team and welcomed two new intern coordinators to assist with Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29.  With five new faces to introduce, we offer these get-to-know-you questions.

Let’s start with something simple. Where can you be found on a Saturday evening?

Annie MacKay (Patron Services Representative): “Seeing a play or making dinner with friends.”

Tyler Marsden (Marketing Coordinator): “In my backyard, jamming out on the ukulele with my roommates and friends.”

L-R: Ashley Bomberry & Tyler Marsden

Joelle Peters (Patron Services Representative): “Either at home writing and playing my ukulele, watching a show (live or on screen), or out with friends exploring the city.”

Looks like we have two ukulele fans here! Perhaps we’ll have a jam sometime in the office. Okay,  Ashley and Peter, tell us something on your bucket list. 

Ashley Bomberry (Festival Coordinator): “The number one item on my bucket list is to create art that changes minds and lives in some lasting and meaningful way.”

Peter Kelly (Patron Services Representative): “Own a theatre space!”

Sounds like you’re well on your way. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?

Peter Kelly: “Yes. Dance is my life!”

Ashley Bomberry: “What I’m doing right now isn’t what I dreamt of as a child – I’m doing so much more than I could have dreamed. At the same time, I don’t feel like I’m as far as I should be or as accomplished as I’d like to be. But I have had a lifetime full of adventures and travel and friends along the way and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Annie MacKay: “Yes – finally!”

Joelle Peters: “Yes, 100%. Creating art and helping others do the same makes my heart happy.”

Tyler Marden: “I have always wanted to work within Indigenous arts and media. While my focus has not been theatre-related, I am excited to work alongside other Indigenous artists who share the same passion for creative storytelling as I do.”

Joelle Peters & Annie MacKay
L-R: Joelle Peters & Annie MacKay

How about long-term. What is your dream job?

Tyler Mardsen: “Executive Producer of a web and mobile Indigenous production company.”

Annie MacKay: “Actor-writer-plus-indefinite-number-of-hyphens.”

Peter Kelly: “An Artistic Director of an international dance company, organization or festival.”

Ashley Bomberry: “My perfect or dream job would be creating (writing, directing, producing) films and television programs to share Indigenous stories, values, perspectives and humour, which would otherwise go untold/unseen. I’d like to hold workshops in Indigenous communities around the world to empower the youth and provide an outlet for them to share their own stories, visions and dreams.”

Sharing Indigenous stories is what Native Earth is all about! So can you tell us an Indigenous artist whose work you enjoy?

Tyler Marsden: “I am a big fan of Drew Hayden Taylor’s work after first reading Me Funny front-to-back in university. (Shout out to the Occasions!)

Ashley Bomberry: “I wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite play by I do love everything written by Daniel David Moses and Marie Clements. Their voices are so strong and so needed in today’s cultural landscape of race and gender politics, painful pasts, and promising futures.”

Peter Kelly: “Santee Smith.”

Annie MacKay: “I still can’t get Cliff Cardinal’s Huff out of my head!”

Joelle Peters: “Margo Kane’s Moonlodge.”

Native Earth Staff
Clockwise from bottom: Ryan Cunningham, Joelle Peters, Isaac Thomas, Peter Kelly, Annie MacKay, Jessica Lea Fleming, Kat Horzempa, Yolanda Bonnell

How about the big picture: if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?

Joelle Peters: “Currently, I’d love to go to Peru.”

Peter Kelly: “Europe.”

Tyler Marsden: “I would want to travel to Australia and New Zealand.”

Ashley Bomberry: “If I could travel to anywhere in the world, I’d go to Aotearoa and create some cross-cultural exploration work with Maori artists.”

Annie MacKay: “I have to pick? Spain and Turkey are both high on my list because I’ve never been, but I also want to go back to Vietnam! Hang En Cave specifically. Google It.”

Oh, we will. Finally, do you have a favourite quote?

Tyler Marsden: “Any man who must say ‘I am king’ is no true king at all” – George R.R. Martin

Joelle Peters: “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” -Michael Scott, The Office

Peter Kelly: “You do you.”

Ashley Bomberry: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

Thank you and wachiya/welcome to you all!

To learn more about each of these new team members,
visit our staff page.

RUTAS 2016

Presented in partnership with Aluna Theatre
October 5-16, 2016, Aki Studio
Four-Show Deal $70


November 9-19, 2016, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $15, Festival Pass $60


Written and Performed by Sheldon Elter
January27 – February 5, 2017, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $15-$30


Presented in partnership with DanceWorks
March 30-April 1, 2017, Aki Studio
Single Tickets $25, Double Bill $40


May 2017, Aki Studio

Connect with Native Earth!

Staff Making a Splash!

Bonnell_Yolanda Humber HeadshotYolanda Bonnell Featured in Thunder Bay Magazine

Yolanda Bonnell was recently interviewed by Kyle Poluyko for The Walleye Magazine, an arts and culture magazine in Bonnell’s hometown of Thunder Bay.

Though she didn’t intend on going to school in Toronto, Bonnell found herself studying theatre at Humber College. She credits education there not only with making her a better actor but a better person.  “There’s a strong focus on finding your artistic voice and what you want to say in the world.” Read Full Interview

Gloria Mok - NEPA HeadshotGloria Mok Featured in Theatre Ontario’s Blog

Gloria Mok recently attended Places Please! Stage Management and the Creative Process from Pre-Production to End of Run with Maria Popoff at Alumnae Theatre, and shared some reflections on learning with her.

“Communication is key. You are responsible for navigating multiple lines of communication, an intricate web of artistic relationships. You must learn to walk the line between the needs of the director, the needs of the cast, and needs of the design team.” Read Full Article