Category Archives: 2019/2020 Season

Zach Running Coyote: Hum my songs the whole bus ride home

In theatre, a triple-threat performer is one who can act, sing and dance…He can act, sing and dance, but he’s also an accomplished composer, lyricist, playwright and a born storyteller.” – Calgary Herald

Calgary-based Nehiyaw artist, Zach Running Coyote comes to Weesageechak for the first time with his debut work as a playwright. Kohkum & me is a virtuosic folk musical about an adopted young Indigenous man who is headed to Vancouver on a Greyhound bus in search of his birth mother. A whirlwind journey filled with biting humour and powerful songs, we discover ancestors using payphones, David Bowie as an Ice Monster and Jesus as an Indigenous Grandmother.

Kohkum & me was inspired by Zach’s own endless bus trips and the numerous people he met, including an elder who survived the residential schools and has learned to heal herself. Featuring Zach himself, the play premiered at Calgary’s Motel Theatre in August as part of his graduating project at Rosebud School of the Arts. We’re excited to see Zach take this piece to the next step at Weesageechak!


Learn more about Zach Running Coyote

What inspired you to create the piece you’re bringing to Weesageechak 32?
“I have been stripped of knowing where I come from. Lies are written in the pages of a colonizer’s ledger that threaten to determine my place. But it is my ancestor’s blood, not a white man’s ink that runs in my veins.”

Growing up in a Christian home with no connection to who I am, Kohkum & me is my autobiographical myth of how I learned to look into a mirror and recognize a child of Creator.

Why is Weesageechak the right place to present your work?
I did a project on Native Earth Performing Arts in my theatre history class, and I’ve been pretty obsessed ever since. Many of the artists I admire the most have developed work through Weesageechak, and it’s so very fulfilling to do the same!

What kind of reaction or effect do you want your piece to have to the audience?
I hope my truth is met with listening, open hands. I hope that you learn something about yourself. I want you to hum my songs the whole bus ride home. I want to inspire the child and elder within each person, and invite the audience into a healing circle where we all, in the words of the show’s final song, “Listen to the Old Ones breathe.”

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
The hidden elders living on the streets. They are the glowing embers of a sacred fire.

Who is your role model? How do they inspire you?
Buffy Sainte Marie who said, “Take a chance on the spirit of the wind.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To eat before going to bed. Keeps the nightmares away.

What are you craving right now?
A trip to some hot springs.

What is coming up next for you?
The Napi Project with Making Treaty 7 and Lunchbox Theatre, as playwright and performer.


Friday November 15, 2019

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Ed Bourgeois: Honouring those who continue to whisper in our ears

“In a world with increasing ties through technology, many of us remain painfully disconnected — from our homelands, our predecessors and the touchstones that ground us in a shared reality.”

Oregon-based playwright Ed Bourgeois comes to Weesageechak 32 with his latest creation, River of Blood. Set in the early 18th century, Joseph, a modern Indigenous man, confronts the true nature of his mixed ancestral heritage through his relationship with his daughter. 

We don’t always recognize or know how to relate to the trauma, the memories, the dreams and the voices that reach out to us from the past. River of Blood honours the ancestors — those who wished us love, those who sent us messages, and those who continue to whisper in our ears.

Catch the staged reading of Ed’s play on November 14th, alongside Christopher Mejaki, Cole Forrest and Maria Campbell, Yvette Nolan, Marilyn Poitras and Cheryl Troupe.


Learn more about Ed Bourgeois

Why is Weesageechak the right place to present your work?
The specific historical setting of River of Blood — New England, New France and Iroquoia in the early 18th century — represents an interweaving of cultures that is barely mentioned in US textbooks today, despite that fact that so many of us have all three roots in our family trees. The complexity and subtlety of multilingualism and diplomacy are far removed for US audiences, but I expect them to play better with Canadian audiences, whose ears are more attuned to the many shades between black and white.

What kind of reaction or effect do you want your piece to have to the audience?
I hope the audience will see themselves in the mixed people on stage, and have an understanding that those people are dealing with gifts over which they do not have control. We are made up of all the things that have flowed downriver to us.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
To be inspired is to be in spirit. The work comes from listening carefully to the spirit world and then not getting in the way with our egos.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Oglala Lakota visual artist Walt Pourier. “To be inspired is to be in spirit” is his quote. Walt reminds me to work from our values.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Stop acting and just do it!”

What are you craving right now?
Quiet time to get the next three plays in my brain down on paper.

What is coming up next for you?
Coordinating the pilot Native Artist Residencies + NPN Creation Fund project: The Indigenous Road Show, devised with Indigenous artists and director in residence at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. The work will premiere in Portland, Oregon next summer.


Thursday November 14, 2019

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Jimmy Blais: How do we judge the ways people take on the world?

“[It’s] a story about how we choose to see people, how we judge or not judge the way they take on the world.

In Sonny’s Blues by award-winning writer James Baldwin, two brothers who grow up under the same circumstances in Harlem, end up living entirely different lives. As one brother becomes a teacher, the other struggles with addiction, incarceration, and redemption through his musical talent. Jimmy Blais’ adaptation takes the core of this story and explores it through an Indigenous perspective.

Originally developed at The National Theatre School’s Indigenous Artists in Residence program, Sonny’s Way follows two Indigenous brothers, Jeff and Sonny who try to reconnect after life has dealt them many difficult cards. Blais’ new compelling story challenges how we perceive addicts and questions why certain ways of dealing with trauma are considered “better” than others. How do we judge the ways people take on the world — ourselves included? 

Catch Jimmy Blais’ newest creation on the opening night of Weesageechak 32!


Learn more about Jimmy Blais

What inspired you to create the piece you’re bringing to Weesageechak 32?
I saw so many similarities between the characters in James Baldwin’s beautiful short story, Sonny’s Blues and the characters in my life.

Why is Weesageechak the right place to present your work?
An opportunity to work on an Indigenous piece, alongside Indigenous artists and present it in a festival that celebrates new Indigenous works and works-in-development…uh yes, yes and yes…it’s a no brainer.

What kind of reaction or effect do you want your piece to have to the audience?
I want people to laugh when it’s funny, tear up when it’s moving, and think when it’s over.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
In the banality, the beauty, and the complexity of people.

Who is your role model? How do they inspire you?
The joker who laughs when they are alone. They carry the fire, always.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
You are not stuck in traffic.
You ARE traffic.
Know your place.

What are you craving right now?
A hammock by a lake.

What is coming up next for you?
Tomorrow.
Also, Porte Parole’s The Assembly at The Segal Centre, National Arts Centre and multiple cities in Germany.

Photos by Laurence Plouffe


Wednesday November 13, 2019

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Mimi O’Bonsawin: An intimate and honest place

“I often encourage people who want to walk the path of the artist, to look at the world through creative lenses, to use every sound, story, smell, feeling…they surround us as inspiration for art.”

After her summer tour around Turtle Island, Mimi comes to Toronto for the opening of the 32nd annual Weesageechak festival! A contemporary roots songwriter, Mimi is strongly influenced by her Indigenous and Francophone heritage. Infused with her positive energy, her music embodies the powerful scenery of Northern Ontario and the beauty of its waters.

Mimi was recently awarded the 2019 Best Pop Album at the Indigenous Music Awards for her 2017 album Connected. Some of Mimi’s career highlights include opening for Buffy Sainte-Marie, performing at Cannes, and sharing the stage with Crystal Shawanda, Francesco Yates, Tom Wilson and more. Her newest release, TRILLIUM, is a collection of acoustic songs and a compelling, intimate follow-up to her two previous works. We’re very delighted to have her join us for Weesageechak’s opening stage on November 13th!


Learn more about Mimi O’Bonsawin

Why is Weesageechak the right place to present your work?
For the past 7 years, I have been cutting my teeth and expanding my craft as a songwriter. Putting together A SHOW is something that I have always loved to do and I’m excited to share my art at Weesageechak 2019. While studying performing arts, I realized that performing as a songwriter has many similarities to acting or dance.

What kind of reaction or effect do you want your piece to have to the audience?
If someone can find a reflection in a moment of a song, I will feel fulfilled. My songs are deeply rooted in story and come from an intimate and honest place – a place of Love.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
My surroundings, my heritage, my family, my passion and my love for the earth. I often encourage people who want to walk the path of the artist, to look at the world through creative lenses to use every sound, story, smell, feeling … they surround us as inspiration for art.

Who is your role model? How do they inspire you?
Musically, many people inspire my craft. My band mates, my teachers/elders, the people I meet and share moments with – those are my true inspiration.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
RISK IT

What are you craving right now?
Peace, tranquility, quiet.

What is coming up next for you?
Growing, learning, and creating. I am going to be recording and composing new material, setting up more touring and continuing to find my way through art.


Wednesday November 13, 2019

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2-Spirit Cabaret Call for Submissions

in partnership with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Native Earth and Buddies partner once again to bring back another exciting evening of the 2-Spirit Cabaret as part of Weesageechak Begins to Dance 32. A celebration of the strength, beauty, and talent of queer and 2-Spirit Indigenous people, the Cabaret features music, dance, drag, performance art, spoken word, poetry and comedy curated by award-winning 2-Spirit theatre artist Michaela Washburn.

Sold-out for three years in a row, the fourth edition of the Cabaret will be held on Saturday November 16, 2019 at The Chamber, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Please submit a one-page Letter of Interest describing your proposed performance piece (5-10 minutes in length) and connection to 2-Spirit and/or queer / trans experience or identity.

Please also include with your submission:

  • Name, Address, Phone number, Email address;
  • High resolution headshot in JPG, PNG or EPS format;
  • 100 word bio;
  • Your Indigenous identity and/or Nation;
  • A writing sample (up to 5 pages) or video (up to 5 minutes) for the proposed piece.

About: The 32nd annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival is a celebration of new works and works in development produced by Native Earth Performing Arts, Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous theatre company. Each November, Native Earth selects dance, theatre and interdisciplinary works reflecting Indigenous performing arts in Canada and internationally, and provide development support and a workshop production during the two-week festival. In order for a submission to be eligible, the primary artist(s) must identify as Indigenous.

Learn more about the 2-Spirit Cabaret here, and Weesageechak festival here.

Please submit your Letter of Interest and the required support material by mail or email:

Native Earth Performing Arts
#250 – 585 Dundas Street East
Toronto, ON
M5A 2B7
festival@nativeearth.ca

For questions related to the 2-Spirit Cabaret submission process, please call 416-531-1402.

Click here to download the PDF.


See 2-Spirit Cabaret 2018 Line-Up

Photos by Dahlia Katz


See 2-Spirit Cabaret 2017 Line-Up

Photos by Jake Jamieson


See 2-Spirit Cabaret 2016 Line-Up

Photos by Connie Tsang


Native Earth and Buddies

Header image features Michaela Washburn, photo by Tanja Tiziana