All posts by Native Earth

2016 Dora Awards

Congratulations to Cliff Cardinal on receiving two 2016 Dora Mavor Moore Awards.
Cliff was awarded Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance by a Male for HUFF, produced in Native Earth’s 2015-2016 Season.

Cliff Cardinal Dora AwardsCliff Cardinal Dora Awards 2

Watch Acceptance Speech

Dora AwardsDora Awards 2

Top Photos by Anne-Marie Krytiuk ©2016 TAPA
Bottom Photos c/o Native Earth Performing Arts

Our production of HUFF by Cliff Cardinal received FOUR Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations!

We are so grateful for the acknowledgement of the hard work that went into producing this important and impactful Indigenous story.

2016 Dora Award Nominations:
Outstanding Production (HUFF)
Outstanding New Play (Cliff Cardinal) – WIN!
Outstanding Performance by a Male (Cliff Cardinal) – WIN!
Outstanding Lighting Design (Michelle Ramsay)

Meegwetch to everyone involved in making this production possible: Cliff Cardinal, Karin Randoja, Jackie Chau, Michelle Ramsay, Alex Williams, Jennifer Stobart, Pip Bradford, Ksneia Ivanova, and the team at Native Earth: June Epstein, Jessica Lea Fleming, Kat Horzempa, Yolanda Bonnell, Philip Turkiewicz, Gloria Mok.

Tansi from Ryan Cunningham & Isaac Thomas!

Also, a big congratulations to all other 2016 nominees!
#nepaHUFF #DORAS2016 TAPA Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts

And congratulations to Andy Moro & Luca Caruso-Moro on their 2016 Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination for Outstanding Sound Design for STITCH by Cliff Cardinal, a Culture Storm production presented by Native Earth Performing Arts.

Stitch Nomination Announcement
Photo Credits: akipari

May 23 – 29, 2016
Buy Tickets Now

Click here to see the
2016 Paprika Festival schedule

Native Earth is proud to partner for the first time with Paprika Festival to bring their youth-led performing arts festival to Aki Studio. The Paprika Festival celebrates the work of young and emerging artists, and operates as a training ground for tomorrow’s professional artists.

Together, through this partnership, Native Earth and Paprika Festival will offer a barrier-free accessible program for Indigenous youth and residents of Regent Park, creating opportunities for young artists to become more engaged than ever before.


Single Tickets $10, available online here.
Tickets for the 15th Anniversary Celebration are $30.
The Three-Show Pass is available by telephone only.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.
For information on group rates, call the box office at 416-531-1402.

Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402
Email: boxoffice[at]

More information on ticket pick-up here.

Paprika logo final-01 Paprika is a youth-led performing arts festival celebrating young artists as they create original performances with the support of an entire artistic community.

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“Aki” is the Anishnaabemowin word that encompasses
earth, land, place.

Native Earth Performing Arts helms a beautiful black box, creation/rehearsal/performance space in Regent Park. Aki Studio is available for performance rentals, and flexible enough to become your new favourite venue for special events.

Our 120 seat black box studio is fully accessible for both patrons and performers.

In keeping with the values of Native Earth, it was imperative in the planning of this venue to create an accessible, functional and safe space in which to nurture our growing artist and patron base.

Aki Studio is equipped with a comprehensive technical rig with flexible seating arrangements.

Though our capacity is 120, a standard proscenium configuration comfortably allows 118 seats. Our backstage boasts two dressing rooms, a wheelchair accessible bathroom and laundry facilities. Aki Studio is fully accessible for both patrons and performers. Our front of house has box office and ticketing services, including online box office.

Inquire for Corporate and Not-for-Profit Rates
Contact: isaac[at]

Rental Inquiries

IMG_8035_72Check out our calendar to see when Aki Studio may be available for your rental.

For additional availability information or to request a quote please download and complete the Rental Request Form and email it to: Isaac Thomas, Managing Director at isaac[at]

View Technical Specifications and General Information

View Larger Map

Photos of Aki Studio by Ed Maruyama Photography.
This facility is supported through Toronto Arts Council Strategic Funding


Dance Double Bill

Join us for a full night of Indigenous dance
and save 20% off your ticket price!

(Only available by telephone at 416-531-1402)

Luu hlotitxw: Spirit Transforming
by Dancers of Damelahamid
7pm |  Aki Studio | $25

Presented in partnership with DanceWorks, this cross-country three-night showcase of Indigenous dance begins with
Dancers of Damelahamid’s signature new piece, Luu hlotitxw: Spirit Transforming, a meditation on the process of introspection, self- discovery, and change that all people must go through.
More About Luu hlotitxw: Spirit Transforming

Spirit Transforming 3

NGS (Native Girl Syndrome)
by Lara Kramer
9pm | Aki Studio | $25

The evening continues with the hard-hitting and very personal NGS (Native Girl Syndrome), an original work by Ojibwa/Cree dancer and choreographer Lara Kramer. NGS dives into street culture, as enacted in a raw theatrical performance by Karina Iraola and Angie Cheng. Their drug-filled, disassociated personas take the audience on a dynamic journey of addiction, loss, and alienation.
More About NGS (Native Girl Syndrome)



Single Tickets $25 available online.
$40 Double Bill Package available by phone at 416-531-1402.
Thursday-Saturday at 7pm & 9pm.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.

Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402 Email: boxoffice[at]

More information on ticket pick-up here.

Dancers of Damelahamid photos by Derek Dix
Lara Kramer Danse photo by Marc J Chalifoux

HUFF in Quebec

We’ve just passed the midway point on our nine-city Huff tour, and we continue to offer a closer look at the nitty-gritty of this adventure. Stage Manager Jennifer Stobart gives us the inside scoop on the ups and downs of such an ambitious tour.

Copy of NYA 13
L-R: Jennifer Stobart (Stage Manager) & June Epstein (Technical Director)

Here we are on day one, week seven, of our nine-week tour of Huff, my day off… I have been asked to contribute to the tour blog. I was told I could write about insider information about touring, what it feels like to tour, what are the challenges of touring. What have you learned on the tour?

Well, when it comes right down to it, the day-to-day of touring, the challenges, frustrations and joys, all seem to fade away. Keeping an even-keel, and looking forward, not backward, helps a tour run smoothly. If you are doing it right – “What do you mean we can’t get on the train with our set? Okay then, um, on to plan B”…”I am sorry? Did you say one of our set bags did not get on this flight?”…”The interview is NOW, at the theatre, I forgot, okay… let me make some calls and see if I can fix my error” – all of those small moments fade away.

Montreal 2
The marquee outside Montreal’s MAI

You might be surprised to hear this, but, the one thing on the road which can make or break a stay in a city… the food. On every tour I have ever done, maintaining a healthy diet has been the most challenging issue. All restaurants assume you are there to eat food as a treat. Generally, the reasonably priced restaurants offer french fries with practically every meal… a salad often is iceberg lettuce and a couple slices of tomato…”fresh” vegetables of the day are usually over cooked… and, although once a week is okay, a breakfast can not be bacon and eggs every morning.

Hotel living necessitates going out for every meal, so on the days when you wish to hole up and sleep and stay in, ordering take out is the only answer, but pizza can not be a steady diet, and no one delivers breakfast.

In each city we have visited I have eaten in one extravagant restaurant per stay, ($30.00 meals… I guess it depends on your definition of extravagant). Despite the beauty of the food and the dinner, more often I end up craving a simple salad with a dressing I can make. I love cooking, eating fresh and savoury foods. However, even when one has a small kitchenette in the hotel room, food creation is restricted. I cannot go out and buy all the spices, oils and ingredients I want, as I hate the waste, and I can not carry all of that on the plane. Anyone who knows the woes of traveller’s stomach will know my story.

Edmonton 1
Cliff Cardinal takes an interview over a meal.

Cliff will attest to how often I can whine about wanting vegetables, and “real” food. But only I can attest to the fact that taking Huff on the road is worth every missed opportunity to eat really well.

– Jennifer Stobart
Stage Manager

Next stop on the Huff Tour: The team travels to Manitoulin Island, home to the Debajehmujig Theatre Group. Then a return to British Columbia, with a stop at the Rotary Centre for the Arts in Kelowna, and the SPARK Festival at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria.

Feature image of Cliff Cardinal preparing for opening
at Théâtre Périscope in Quebec City, Quebec.

HUFF in Alberta

You’ve probably heard by now that Huff is on tour (nine cities!), and now we’re excited to offer a closer look at the nitty-gritty of this adventure.  In looking back at the first two legs in Alberta, Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham shares some insight of taking this production on tour.

We couldn’t have had a better place to launch this tour than the High Performance Rodeo. Produced by One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary this is Canada’s biggest, boldest and longest running International Arts Festival, and one of my favorite festivals in the country. Not just for the incredible programming but for how well they treat their artists. Everyone is so welcoming and generous. And it’s a month long!

Calgary Load-In
Loading into the West Village Theatre in Calgary. L-R: June Epstein, Jennifer Stobart

I’ve always been jealous of Calgary audiences who get to see so many amazing productions from around the globe every year. And this year, Huff is among them. It is such an honor to be a part of their 30th anniversary, and to pay our respects to such a wonderful Spirit who co-created so much incredible art with the Rabbits and fostered so much talent in Canada: our dear friend Michael Green; Elk Shadow. Cheers to you my friend and another fantastic Rodeo. Thank you for nurturing, guiding and teaching so many of us.

One of the most exciting parts about going on tour is the ‘unknown’ factor. There will always be something that comes up that has never been an issue before. It’s never a question of if, it’s always when. Which is inevitable when you are putting up a play in different venues. You actually have to re-design the show for each venue and we are doing this show in nine venues over nine weeks.

Calgary Load-In Chaos
The HUFF team gets a little riotous at Q2Q. L-R: Jennifer Stobart, June Epstein, Ryan Cunningham, Karin Randoja

Thank you to our incredible and supportive design team; the fantastic Michelle Ramsay who has been re-designing our lights for each venue; the awesome set design from Jackie Chau that perfectly re-creates the world of the play, and yet is able to accommodate the various venues we find ourselves in; our incredible sound designer, Alex Williams, who added more sound cues before we left and lent us an amazing meter, that auto adjusts sound levels and volume. This small thing may not sound amazing but this one little detail has saved us much time in each load-in. And when you only have twelve hours to put up a show, that means a lot. All of your work and attention to detail continues to support us along the way. Thank you!

Huge thanks to the work of our technical director, June Epstein. She put in long hours in our first two cities as we refined the process and figured out the needs of the production as a touring production. Thank you, Jennifer Stobart our incredible stage manager; your touring experience has all ready been invaluable on this tour. And big thanks to our Native Earth team back in Toronto for all the work, planning and continued support for the show; Isaac, Kat, Yolanda and Pip. THANK YOU!

June Epstein setting lighting levels in Edmonton’s Milner Library Theatre.

And finally… a BIG shout out to Cliff. It is such a heart-wrenching joy to witness the different reactions from audiences to your performance. I continue to be impressed by your professionalism, your work ethic and your rigor as an actor. I am so proud of this production and honored that Native Earth can continue to bring this awesome piece of theatre to audiences across Canada.

Next stop: We’ll be in Vancouver for the PuSh Festival, and then we make a short stop at home (North York) before continuing east to Quebec. Can’t wait!

Ryan Cunningham, Artistic Director

Feature image of Ryan Cunningham & Cliff Cardinal during a talk-back at High Performance Rodeo in Calgary, Alberta.


Jess Fleming Heads West

Thanks to Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program Jessica Lea Fleming is spending this winter in Vancouver, British Columbia training in artistic producing & programming at Full Circle: First Nations Performance.

I’m off to a blazing start here at Full Circle: First Nations Performance, working with mentors Margo Kane (Cree-Saulteaux) and Tanja Dixon-Warren. As is usually the case with festival work, there are many pieces to pull together for the 16th annual Talking Stick Festival, February 18 – 28, 2016 here on Coast Salish territory! Luckily, we are on track (phew!) and I look forward to spending 10 days with friends and artists from across Turtle Island.

Jess West 2
Jessica Lea Fleming and the team at Full Circle (counter clockwise top left, Margo Kane, JLF, Kwasuun Sarah-Veden, Dannielle Piper, Duane Grant)

My primary focus as Associate Artistic Producer and Programmer has been on planning, promoting and executing the Iyá7yulh Industry Series with Margo and a fabulous team of curators and advisors. Iyá7yulh (“Ee-ya-chote-yo-lh”), translates to “get aboard our canoe”, and this year includes galas, shows, workshops, conversations and events. It’s an exciting and ambitious program, to say the least, with canoe teachings focused on “pulling together” imbued throughout each day.

Jess West 5
“A little mood lighting… #night #sky #magic #vancouver” @jessflamingo on Instagram

One of the most rewarding parts about my work so far at Full Circle is the inclusion of Indigenous traditions and protocol in the everyday. We recently welcomed friends and colleagues from Australia’s ILBIJERRI Theatre (currently touring Jack Charles V. the Crown). As hosts, we invited the Australian delegation for a gathering and blanketing ceremony to celebrate our guests, and ensure their safe journey home. I was honoured to assist Elder Sahplek Bob Baker (Squamish) in the ceremony and have been carrying the teachings with me.

Jess West 6
On tour with HUFF, Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham catches up with Jess at Full Circle

In just one month I have eaten a delicious array of udon noodles, hiked X̱wáýx̱way (Stanley Park), and dropped in on some next-level yoga sessions. I have also gained new skills and knowledge I look forward to sharing with my NEPA family. I just hope by the time I get back I haven’t forgotten how to hustle the 4-1-6 like a pro, and that my desk hasn’t been ransacked for post-its, “good” pens, and most importantly, my keyboard (I’m looking at you, Mr. Cunningham).

Big hugs from the West Coast,


Jessica Lea Fleming is the Weesageechak Festival Producer for Native Earth Performing Arts.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline except performance. This program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Huff Tour

After an incredibly successful run in Toronto,
we’re taking HUFF on tour across Canada.
See below for where you can catch the show.


Calgary’s International Festival of the Arts
High Performance Rodeo
January 19-22, 2016


Rubaboo Arts Festival
Alberta Aboriginal Arts
January 27-30, 2016


PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Firehall Arts Centre
February 2-6, 2016


Toronto Centre for the Arts
North York Arts
February 10-12, 2016


Théâtre Périscope
February 16-20, 2016


MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels)
February 24-27, 2016


Debajehmujig Theatre Group
March 3-4, 2016


Rotary Centre for the Arts
The University of British Columbia
March 11-12, 2016


SPARK Festival
Belfry Theatre
March 15-19, 2016


Connect with Native Earth!

Weesageechak 28

Our Annual Festival of Indigenous Work

November 11-21, 2015
7:30pm | Tickets $15

Aki Studio

Buy Tickets

Over two weeks in November, the 28th annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival brings together emerging, mid-career and established artists to develop and showcase contemporary Indigenous theatre, dance and interdisciplinary creations for stage.

Save 50% with a Festival Pass!
Limited passes available for just $60. Book your all-access Weesageechak 28 festival pass by telephone at 416-531-1402

Our two-week festival will showcase exciting works by Lara Kramer (Tame), Jani Lauzon (Prophecy Fog), Michelle Thrush (Find Your Own Inner Elder), and Kenneth T. Williams (In Care). In addition to these established artists, Weesageechak will also feature new works by emerging and mid-career artists, such as Yolanda Bonnell, Brian Solomon, and writers from the Animikiig Playwrights’ Program.

The festival provides a platform that fosters mentorship through the exchange of skills and knowledge while simultaneously celebrating contemporary Indigenous performance through readings, workshops and productions. Festival audiences gain insight into the creation process and get a unique glimpse of new Indigenous works from around the world.

Click Image to See Full Schedule

W28 Schedule

See Photos from Weesageechak 27




Evening Tickets $15 available online.
Festival Passes $60 available for purchase by telephone.
Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30pm.
The Sunday Workshop is Pay-What-You-Can and starts at 12pm.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.

Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402 Email: boxoffice[at]

More information on ticket pick-up here.

Weesageechak 28 Press Release

Designing for Huff

Thanks to the support of The Collaborations, an initiative of Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre, Native Earth brought together an all-star team of designers to re-imagine the world of Huff. Working with Director Karin Randoja was multiple award-winning Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay, five-time Dora Mavor Award-nominee Set & Costume Designer Jackie Chau, and esteemed Sound Designer Alex Williams.

In addition to work they’ve done separately, Ramsay and Chau have a history designing together for Native Earth productions, including Annie Mae’s Movement, Salt BabyTombs of the Vanishing Indian.  And once again working as a team, re-imagining a familiar world was an intriguing undertaking.

Set & Costume Designer Jackie Chau & Cliff Cardinal

“For this particular show, it had already toured and had a life,” says Chau. “There are already things that work, so I needed to expand on those ideas and inspire some new ones. It’s Huff 2.0.”

“Every script comes with its own unique set of challenges,” adds Ramsay. “However; it certainly helps when you feel that a script is well written, and telling an important story.”

And being familiar to audiences was not the only challenge; for Chau, so was the content. “It’s a really intense one-man show. It’s a type of script that can be hard to imagine put to life until you see it. It’s much, much funnier seeing it.”

Speaking of her process Ramsay explains, “My work is directly linked to the words, movement, and timing so the bulk of my process takes place in the rehearsal hall. My work toward concept necessarily has to begin with the play itself, and then everything else about the production gets layered in from there.”

Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay & Student John Cabanela

At the helm of this re-imagining was director Karin Randoja, described by Chau as “super kind and collaborative.” Both designers spoke highly of their experience with Randoja. “I am always grateful when an open dialogue is possible with a director,” says Ramsay.

“I also love her laugh,” adds Chau.

Cardinal’s Huff is a dark, biting story about Indigenous brothers coping with their mother’s death, which Chau expects audiences to walk away from with “the need to think and the need to talk.”

The re-imagined design is a key factor in how the audiences experience this story. “The director and designers are working toward some striking and cohesive visual storytelling, to support what is already a strong script,” says Ramsay.

To hear more from Jackie Chau & Michelle Ramsay join us for a Pre-Show Chat on Tuesday October 20th with Managing Director Isaac Thomas. Tickets available online.

Click here to listen to a podcast with Sound Designer Alex Williams.


What’s What with
Jackie Chau & Michelle Ramsay

designer header

What was your first job in theatre?
JC: Designing for a few Fringe and Summerworks shows.
MR: Technician at Vanier Hall in Prince George, BC.

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
 Find designers whose aesthetic you like and don’t be afraid to contact them. Volunteer to shadow them. See as many shows you can. Work as a technician so you can understand the equipment, and what other people will need from you as a designer.

JC: Well, if you already went to school for say design, then:
Plant seeds. Get your portfolio together and just see theatre companies, and each one you see, ask for 3 more names. Hustle, don’t give up and enjoy the ride

What’s your dream travel destination?
JC: Spain; I get to go this spring!

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
MR: I know I am not alone in the design community when I say that periods of having to take on a lot of shows at once can make it very challenging to take care of yourself, and your regular life stuff.

What’s your go-to ice cream flavour?
JC: Pistachio

What’s next for you?
JC: A kids show and being a mom.
MR: The Road to Paradise – Human Cargo/Crow’s Theatre
(at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)

Huff runs in Aki Studio October 10 – 25, 2015
Tickets $15 – $30