Press Releases

New Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham

Native Earth Performing Arts is pleased to announce our new Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham, whose fresh leadership and zealous vision will move NEPA into yet another exciting era of creating strong Indigenous work for our community and beyond.

“We were impressed and excited about many of Ryan’s ideas for Native Earth, which included multidisciplinary connections with the arts community and the national Indigenous community,” says Jed DeCory, President of NEPA’s Board of Directors. “We feel that with his energy and vision we will be able to continue on a path to a positive future.”

Ryan is a proud Métis (Cree/Scottish) from Edmonton, Alberta and has worked as a professional actor across Canada. He is the co-founder and Artistic Manager of Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and the co-curator/producer of The RUBABOO Arts Festival, which kicks off on January 30th in Edmonton. He is co-founder of The Agkowe Collective which continues to bring the award winning play to communities across Canada and beyond. Ryan is a board member of two prominent national organizations: IPAA (Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance) and the CanDANCE Network.

Ryan recently performed in Yukonstyle at the Berkeley Street Theatre (Canadian Stage). As an actor he has performed in notable productions such as King Lear and The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (National Arts Centre), Urinetown: The Musical and Vimy (Firehall Arts Centre) and Next Year’s Man of Steel (Shadow Theatre). Ryan can be seen right now on APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) in the third season of the award winning series Blackstone, as well as Mixed Blessings, Earth: Final Conflict and Blue Murder.

Ryan’s involvement with Native Earth began as an actor in the fall of 2003 during the 16th Weesageechak Festival. He has been a featured actor in NEPA mainstage productions: Annie Mae’s Movement, Death of a Chief and Dreary & Izzy. Ryan was a Festival Associate at Native Earth supporting the 23rd annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance.

Native Earth welcomes Ryan to its community and family. We look forward to sharing his artistic vision in the months to come as he steps into our office as of January 6, 2014.


 Media Reference: Jessica Carmichael Phone: (416) 531.1402 E-mail: [email protected]


Press Releases

2012/2013 Treason Season

For Immediate Release:  September 27, 2012

Media Reference: Janet Antone

Phone: (416) 531.1402 Fax: (416) 531.6377

E-mail: [email protected]


Native Earth: Treason Season


The 2012/2013 treason season comes at the crest of the celebration of the war of 1812, in which Native Earth is respectfully declining any participation. As Artistic Director Tara Beagan stated in our season announcement, “We instead want to make this season a dedication to those who educate others about true diversity by living an extraordinary life, against the odds. You, who fortify our international community by bridging continents with TransIndigenous cross-pollination. Those who practice our indomitable right to tell our stories. Those who seek to realize justice in spite of detrimental systemic structures that purport to do the same.’” This is all reflected and honoured in our 2012/2013 season and enhanced by the fact that this will be our 30th anniversary as North America’s first professional Indigenous theatrical creation and production company.

We have always strived to be a venue for First Nation artists, both locally and internationally.

We are thrilled to announce the opening of our new home, located at the recently named Daniels Spectrum building (585 Dundas St E, Toronto, ON). Our new home includes our new office and theatre space, appropriately named Aki Studio Theatre, which means “land, place, earth” in Anishnaabemowin. Aki Studio Theatre is a transformable, 120 seat black box theatre, which is available for rent. Contact for more information.

This season’s dedication includes:


Scotiabank Nuit Blanche


“For those who can’t resist a good story”

Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring Nicole Joy Fraser

September 29, 2012

For this year’s Nuit Blanche festival themed “The Lights are on” Native Earth has chosen to ignite our season by inviting First Nations artists working in all disciplines to create interpretations of Thomas King’s A Short History of Indians in Canada. Which tells the story of a businessman’s first time in Toronto and his unsettling experience with the Urban Indian. This story is an exploration on how First Peoples are perceived in Canada; mystic, misunderstood and fleeting. Thomas King will kick off the evening at 7:00pm with a reading of his work that was the inspiration for the artist’s interpretations. Aki Studio Theatre comes alive with a video installation featuring interpretative responses to Thomas King’s story by participating artists enrolled in Native Earth’s Animikiig and Thundering Voices Program, students at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, established artists, Storytellers and community members.

Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival XXV


“For those who practice our indomitable right to tell our stories”

Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring PJ Prudat

November 14-17, 2012


Besides being our 25th year of showcasing exciting new work from Indigenous artists across Turtle Island, this year’s festival will also see alluring new works by Montreal-based dancer/choreographer Lara Kramer, a searing satire by new playwright Andréa Ledding and a gorgeous collaboration by South Asian Canadian Sharada K. Eswar and Cree artist Rosary Spence. We are eager to see the work from the participants from our Animikiig and Thundering Voices program, always our most popular night.

Café Daughter

“For those who educate”

Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring PJ Prudat


January 15-20, 2013



Produced by Gwaandak Theatre

Written by Kenneth T. Williams

Directed by Yvette Nolan

Featuring PJ Prudat


Café Daughter is a one-woman virtuosic performance, based on the life Dr. Lillian E. Quan Dyck. This is a family friendly show about a Chinese Canadian Cree girl growing up in rural Saskatchewan. The story begins in 1957: 10-year-old Yvette Wong helps out in her parents’ café. Her mother has charged her with a secret – to never tell anyone she’s part Cree. She’s incredibly bright and dreams of becoming a doctor, but is put in the slow learners’ class because of her skin colour. This is at a time when Aboriginal children were forced into residential schools, provincial law forbade white women from working in Chinese-owned businesses, and Chinese-Canadian men struggled to bring families to Canada.

Will Yvette flourish in the face of adversity and embrace her full identity?

Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way

“For those who fortify”

Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring Monique Mojica

January 31-Feburary 3, 2013

Produced by Chocolate Woman Collective

Written by Monique Mojica

Directed by José Á. Colman

Featuring Monique Mojica and Gloria Miguel

Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way written and performed by Toronto based stage maven Monique Mojica and performed with the fierce and ever-pioneering Gloria Miguel of New York’s Spiderwoman Theater. This dynamic mother/daughter team is directed by renowned Guna theatre artist José Á. Colman. Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way layers the stories of a girl soldier, Daughter from the Stars, and Sky Woman Falling (First Woman) with retellings of cultural stories of the Grandmothers of Creation. The play weaves realities to create a daring, dream provoking performance. It is a dramatic narrative in a tapestry of creation, conflict and healing towards wholeness. Chocolate Woman Collective reclaims Indigenous cultures through the artistic process.


The Deserters

“For those who seek to realize”

Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring Tamara Podemski

April 26-May 12, 2013

Written by Kenneth T. Williams

Directed by Tara Beagan

Set, Lights and Projection Design by Andy Moro

Fight Choreography by Christian Feliciano

Sound by Lucie Idlout and Andrew Penner

Starring Tamara Podemski, featuring Michelle Latimer, Nicola Correia-Damude, & Meegwun Fairbrother

In a time when global war threatens to extinguish the dominant female population, three women of opposing factions find themselves detained in a makeshift military holding cell. In close quarters, the soldiers must set their ideologies aside in order to survive. Seemingly left for dead, plans of escape jam to a halt when that rarest of creatures – a man – is dropped into their midst. Starring award-winning actor, Broadway-vet and certified Krav Maga instructor Tamara Podemski, Kenneth T. Williams’ play promises to shake up any complacent tendency to regard epic-scale wars as mere history.



Photo by Juan Camilo Palacio featuring Keith Barker


2012/2013 Season

Our playwright-in-residence is Keith Barker, an actor/director/youth facilitator who launched his playwriting career with The Hours That Remain through Native Earth while facilitating the Animikiig and Thundering Voices program (previously Young Voices) and Weesageechak festival over the past few years. Barker’s play will debut as a co-production between New Harlem Productions and Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, this October, proudly introducing our new Aki studio theatre to Toronto. Barker will debut more of his writing throughout the season.

Our artist-in-residence is Archer Pechawis¸ a talented multi-media artist who affirms that his laptop is his drum, when it comes to traditional storytelling meeting the forever evolving technology of today whose work has been supported by Native Earth, through the Weesageechak festival with his piece Horse. Archer Pechawis is a published poet, his work “Bones” was featured for the City of Toronto’s 175th anniversary. Archer will be developing his works Elegy and Our Beautiful Future.

Our elder-in-residence Ernie Sandy is a fluent speaker in his Ojibway language, a teacher of Aboriginal studies, and a strong advocate for the revitalization and retention of Indigenous languages. Ernie lives his life within Native Earth’s 7 core values, which is why he is such a great fit. We welcome Ernie and are grateful for his guidance as we move forward with all of this year’s plans.

Check out our website often to see updates on presentations from both Archer and Keith.


We continue to proudly provide a home for artists from all mediums and are proud to serve as a platform to these fine artists for the season. We invite you to catch their work at the Weesageechak Festival and throughout their time with us.

2012/2013 Treason Season

Native Earth & Aki Studio Theatre at Daniels Spectrum

585 Dundas St E.

Toronto, ON

M5A 3B1

Box Office

Phone 416.531.1402

Email [email protected]

Group Bookings

Aqua, Outreach Coordinator

Phone 416.531.1402


For more information


[email protected]

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Press Releases

PR Beagan Begins, January 16, 2011

Beagan begins

Tonight marks Native Earth’s anxiously awaited announcement of the artist who is to succeed Yvette Nolan at the helm of Canada’s oldest Aboriginal performing arts organization.  Incoming Artistic Director Tara Beagan assumes the mantle of leadership on February 1, 2011.

Press Releases

PR: Clements’ Tombs January 5, 2011

Still Here, Native Earth Performing Arts’ season catchphrase rings more true than ever with upcoming world premiere of Marie Clements’ Tombs of the Vanishing Indian, co-produced with the award-winning red diva projects.  Prompted by a visit to a museum where statistics show that 90% of guests visit to see a people that “no longer existed”, Tombs of the Vanishing Indian is Marie Clements’ groundbreaking response, proof positive that Aboriginal people are indeed, still here.

Press Releases

PR: Weesageechak 23 December 15, 2010

Weesageechak 23 and The Last Night On Earth

Native Earth Performing Arts brings the performing arts together once again for the 23rd annual Weesageechak festival of new works – including theatre, dance, film, spoken word, and new media.  This five day curated festival showcases the many forms of expression within indigenous performing arts.

Press Releases

PR: AD sought October 12, 2010

Native Earth Performing Arts Seeks Artistic Director

Canada’s oldest professional Aboriginal theatre is looking for an artist with a vision to lead the company into the next decade.

In the 28 years since it was created, Native Earth Performing Arts has contributed to the development of a community of artists, a body of work, and an international profile for Aboriginal playwrights. The company has produced such landmark productions as Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters, Marie Clements’ The Unnatural and Accidental Women, Cheyikwe Performance’s the place between, Darrell Dennis’ Tales of An Urban Indian and, with the National Arts Centre, Death of a Chief, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Press Releases

PR: Nolan departs September 14, 2010

Native Earth poised to open a new chapter

Native Earth launches its 28th season, which is themed Still Here, with the announcement that Artistic Director Yvette Nolan will leave the company at the close of the Weesageechak Festival in January. “Yvette Nolan has been the driving force in making Native Earth Performing Arts the leading Aboriginal cultural organization in Canada and I thank her for her tireless efforts and wish her all the best as she starts on a new path,” Board President Jesse Wente says. “Native Earth looks forward to inviting a new visionary to guide the organization into its expansive future.” The Board of Directors is currently accepting applications from fierce artists whose leadership vision embraces the seven guiding principles of Generosity, Courage, Tolerance, Strength of Character, Humility, Patience, and Wisdom.

Press Releases

PR: 28th Season September 7, 2010

Native Earth: Still Here

Now in its 28th season, Native Earth has come through some turbulence, some triumph, and a whole lot of drama to find itself on firm ground. Even amidst the chaos of our political, economic landscape it is still, here. Twenty eight years of stories charting untold histories of residential school, forced adoption, lost language and obscured tradition, amounts to a history of tenacious survival: we are still here. This season’s programming continues to assert this presence with stories new and old rendered in Native Earth’s expansive and inclusive style.