Category Archives: Weesageechak

Lisa C. Ravensbergen:

“Our very existence is a political act”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Weesageechak Beings to Dance 30 features new and familiar faces from across Turtle Island and beyond. This year’s festival celebrates the amazing talents of artists in our community, including the multi-hyphenate theatre artist, Lisa C. Ravensbergen who describes herself as a tawny mix of Ojibwe/Swampy Cree and English/Irish.

The Jessie-nominated actor who currently lives in Kingston returns with her latest work The Seventh Fire. “Like much of my work, it came to me in a dream—and an image that wouldn’t leave me: an old woman sitting in a tree, hooting like an owl. I had to know more about her.” Ravensbergen tells a story of a woman’s return to the Ojibwe community which she believes has rejected her, but soon she discovers her destiny is tied to the community’s survival.

Lisa C. Ravensbergen at God and The Indian
Lisa C. Ravensbergen in God and The Indian. Photo: akipari.

Ravensbergen is no stranger to Native Earth audiences. She has a long history with Native Earth including notable performances in Marie Clements’ The Unnatural and Accidental Women in 2008, and Drew Hayden Taylor’s God and The Indian in 2015. Weesageechak has a special place in her heart where her very first creation-collaboration, The Place Between, was workshopped, and later produced by Native Earth in 2007.

“I hope that people might use the work as a mirror—to investigate deeper parts of themselves and/or become more curious about the relationship they have to their history and to their present reality.”

From her first creation to her latest work, The Seventh Fire, Ravensbergen continues to give voice to women and to tell stories from the Anishinaabekwe’s perspective. At the same time, she is constantly exploring possibilities within interdisciplinary forms, including the poeticism of myth and dance. “All this to say, I continue to aspire to make the unseen seen…and felt.”

The Seventh Fire was developed with Delinquent Theatre’s (Vancouver) Christine Quintana, who is the dramaturge of the piece. “Lisa has spent time shaping and imagining this world on the page, and now it’s time for this world to meet some ears and minds, and see what happens next.” The Seventh Fire was also developed at Playwrights Theatre Centre as part of the PTC Associates program.

Still in the working stages, Quintana believes the piece “will stir feelings of connection to family and remind audiences of their own resilience”. Ravensbergen hopes the piece will inspire people “to investigate deeper parts of themselves and/or become more curious about the relationship they have to their history and to their present reality.”

Make sure to catch The Seventh Fire on Saturday, November 25th!


More from Lisa C. Ravensbergen

Whose piece are you most looking forward to seeing at W30?
My co-presenter of the evening, Tara Beagan’s piece. I’ve long been a fan of Tara’s artistic ferocity and courage. I also have much respect for the craft she brings to the text. I always learn something from hearing/reading Tara’s work.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
Memories. My dream life. Time and the Mystery it holds. My son and my family’s stories. Oral history and traditional Anishinaabe teachings. My disconnection from my language, community, and traditional land. Living as a visitor in Coast Salish territories and the relationships I’ve grown over 25 years. Nature.

Who is your role model? How do they inspire you?
It’s a three way tie: Margo Kane, Marie Clements, and Yvette Nolan. They embraced me fully when I was a baby artist and because of them, I never had to feel alone in my practice. They continue to show me what it means to be a strong woman and an artist who willingly takes risks. They continue to carve paths for people like me, even when they get nothing or very little in return.

They also continue to have high expectations of me in all aspects of theatre-doing and thanks to their respect and good faith, I have a deep commitment to rigour, Indigenous theatre craft and playing with form, community-giving, and curiosity. I am the artist I am, in large part, thanks to them. And they just keep getting better with age…something I definitely aspire to!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Two adages from my theatre school days still hold true, 16 years after graduating: 1) Don’t work for approval. 2) If you want a job, work the same way on every show. If you want a career, figure out how to work differently.

Do you have any advice for Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Don’t work for approval; work for your Ancestors and the for the Ones Who Will Follow. Honour your collaborations with generosity and courage. Be humble with your power. You never know who will give you your next gig; be kind.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
The simple act of BEING an Indigenous woman in this construct called “Canada” is a political act. Using our voices to speak our stories and our truths is political. Until such time that we, as Indigenous people, are no longer considered a “problem,” our very existence on and off stage is a political act.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
It means everything. It means claiming space for ourselves, our stories, and for the generations to come without the gaze of whiteness and white theatre defining our worth for us.

It means unpacking the colonial baggage of what “theatre” is and transforming our own imaginations. It means facing our fears and dysfunction of using our teachings to create safe and honourable space for our stories to be embodied.

What’s coming up next for you?
Currently doing my masters degree in Cultural Studies (Theatre & Indigenous Art) at Queens; Dramaturge for Valerie Sing Turner’s new play, In the Shadow of the Mountains (Visceral Visions and the National Arts Centre); as Director, remounting Kenneth T. Williams‘ Café Daughter as the Belfry Theatre’s 2018 Spark Festival (Workshop West Playwrights Theatre).


See Lisa C. Ravensbergen’s The Seventh Fire on
Saturday, November 25th @ 7:30pm
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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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Brefny Caribou: “Ask Yourself Uncomfortable Questions”

We’re thrilled to welcome emerging playwright Brefny Caribou and her latest work Bad Indian. Over the past three years, Caribou has been developing the play  inspired by her own experiences as a young Cree/Irish woman.

Delving into a myriad of mixed-race experiences, Bad Indian takes us through a woman’s quest of understanding where she belongs in the paradox of Canada’s “national identity.”

“My fuel for this piece has continued to be in asking myself uncomfortable questions – about my identity, my upbringing, my privilege – and asking myself where my voice belongs. I seek to expose the parts of me that have been steeped in colonialism, internalized racism, as I seek to better understand where I have come from in order to help forge a path forward.”

Working with Artistic Director Keith Barker, Caribou is looking for feedback from the audience, especially from the community of Indigenous creators.

“I hope to share part of my journey with an audience, and perhaps inspire others to keep asking uncomfortable questions of each other, and most importantly of themselves.”

Brefny Caribou‘s reading of The Bad Indian will be presented on Thursday, November 23rd.


More from Brefny Caribou

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
My work is very personal. I have the overwhelming desire to be explicitly understood. I find inspiration in the stories I want someone to hear. Moments, memories, and questions I have. I want to share them and ask, “Like, right?! Or…?” I just want to share these things with people, an audience, and make those connections.

What is your most memorable performance?
Well, I just finished a production of Almighty Voice and His Wife. Holy moly. What a piece. I’m pretty proud of the work I did. Steep learning curve. Incredibly challenging, yet so much fun. What else could you want? What a gift.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
There are many female Indigenous theatre creators that I social media lurk and adore, and am constantly inspired by. But above anyone else, my role model would have to be my mother. Her story is amazing. She is a passionate, resilient, and tenacious Cree woman. She leads by example.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Breathe. I know that is super actor-y of me to say, but it has yet to fail me.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Do it. Or don.’t.

What is coming up next for you?
I’d like to go somewhere sometime soon, that’d be lovely.


You can catch Brefny Caribou’s Bad Indian on
Thursday, November 23rd @ 7:30pm
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Kristy Janvier:

“Show what we want to see in the world”

In celebration of Indigenous contemporary dance, we welcome Kristy Janvier from Flin Flon, Manitoba to W30.

This is Janvier’s first festival premiering her latest work-in-progress, Forest Floor. “The idea came to me on a long walk in the bush. I began to think about the idea of decay.”

“I’ve always loved the crunch below my feet as I walk through the bush behind my secluded cabin. No electricity. No running water. You get there by boat. This land was my great grandparents…”

“As leaves fall, trees rot, fungus grows…I love the smell of decay as a natural part of life cycles, reminding me that I too will leave my body so it can be returned to the earth.”

Janvier will bring the outdoors into an indoor space, decorating the stage floor with spruce roots and others of her findings from the bush.

See the stage come to life through Kristy Janvier’s dance piece, Forest Floor on Thursday, November 23rd.


More from Kristy Janvier

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
All of them! Growing up, I didn’t see many, and I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive. There are so many people doing work across the country and my vision is to bring more of it to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and beyond.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
In nature and in meditation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Turn it over.

Do you have any advice for new Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Try! I went to my first audition when I was 17 years old just to see what an audition was about. That changed my life path from becoming an accountant to a performer in Tokyo, Japan.

Even if the answer is no, each experience builds on each other and will lead to something.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
For some artists and audience, it’s important to address these issues through art. I also think it’s important to show our stories of resilience and what we want to see in the world, not just what’s wrong with it.

What is coming up next for you?
I’m based in Northern Manitoba so I will be returning there for awhile with a few possibilities of collaboration in 2018.


You can catch Kristy Janvier’s Forest Floor on
Thursday, November 23rd @ 7:30pm
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Aria Evans: What is my generation fighting for or against?

feAs the 2016-2017 Animikiig Creators Unit slowly nears its final stages, we’re thrilled to host a two-evening special of what some of the participating creators have been busy drafting, practicing and putting together in the last two years.

With the support from Program Director Diana Belshaw, the two evenings introduces the next generation of creators, including emerging contemporary dance artist, Aria Evans and her solo piece, link. “I wanted to challenge myself and do something that I haven’t done before. I wanted to create a work that related specifically to my generation – to ask questions that I knew I had.”

link is a warrior dance about the blockades we come across in life. Focusing on the idea of forging ahead, link asks the question: What is my generation fighting for or against? “I was struggling to find my voice and I wanted to make the discovery part of the creative process”

“[link] is about fighting through things, moving past things, overcoming things. It’s a metaphor for all the things we go through in life, all the barriers, and the all the people we come into contact with and continue to move forward.”

Participating in the Animikiig Creators Unit provided the kind of support and check-in system that helped Aria move the project forward. “I have spent a lot of time being on the outside of the work I create, for this piece I knew that I couldn’t do it alone.”

See an excerpt of Aria Evan’s link on November 22nd at Weesageechak 30. Learn more about the Animikiig Creators Unit here.


More from Aria Evans

What makes Indigenous performing arts important to you?
I remember the first time I saw someone of colour perform on stage, it was the first time I recognized the arts as being a viable career path. I think if we continue to inspire the next generations, our world can become more liberated and expressive.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
If you never ask, the answer will always be no.

Do you have any advice for emerging Indigenous creators?
Tell the people whose work you like that you like it, and that you would love the opportunity to work with them in any capacity.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
My own personal experiences and conversations that I have with other people – my work is usually created from a social and political lens. I follow my interests then invite people to build upon the ideas or images that come forward.

What is coming up next for you?
I am doing a tour with Theatre New Brunswick – it will be touring to Native Earth on March 30 – April 1, 2017.

To me, art is:
Art is a way to have challenging conversations and allow people to question their role in the world. Art is a way to build allies and compassion.


Catch Aria Evans’s link on
Wednesday, November 22nd @ 7:30pm
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Celeste Sansregret: The world gives you a story everyday

As part of an Animikiig special, we have Celeste Sansregret and a workshop preview of her work Ursa Majoris. Animikiig Creators Unit is  two-year development program for emerging Indigenous creators to develop their work with professional support and resources.

“I took a meeting with Jessica Lea Fleming and pitched her on two projects. She like Ursa Majoris because it was different from anything else Native Earth had in development. Ursa Majoris is a large ambitious project. I knew I would need support to create something of this scale.”

The inspiration for the play came from her own personal experience. “An old boyfriend asked me to tell him a bedtime story.  I started to write something for him but we broke up before I was able to finish. URSA was the story that resulted from his request.  So our love story didn’t last, but this story remains.”

See an excerpt of Celeste Sansregret’s latest work on November 22nd at Weesageechak 30. And learn more about the Animikiig Creators Unit here.


More from Celeste Sansregret

What makes Indigenous performing arts important to you?
Artists give voice, form and deep expression to the full range of life’s experiences – both good and bad. Indigenous artists need to speak with our own voices about the history and lived experiences of our community. We don’t need other people telling us who we are or what we have lived. We need to freely express ourselves.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“The work is always there when you’re ready to go back to it.”

Do you have any advice for emerging Indigenous creators?
See everything you possibly can. In Toronto, I go to the theatre once a week. Take care of yourself, mentally, physically and emotionally. Don’t judge yourself for needing to have a job other than your art.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
The world gives you a story everyday, if you’re paying attention.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
My paternal grandmother:  she had a career as a furrier for Holt’s before she was married and then, she was widowed with three teen-aged sons to raise.  No matter her circumstances, she was elegant, kind and generous, and she instilled that kindness and generosity in her sons

What is coming up next for you?
Weesageechak! Looking very forward to sharing GG and Maggie’s love story with an audience.

To me, art is:
My life: I began performing at 3 1/2 and co-created my first show at 9. When I’m not making art, I’m thinking about art. I can’t imagine my life without art.


Catch Celeste Sansregret’s Ursa Majoris on
Wednesday, November 22nd @ 7:30pm
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Alanis King: “Illuminating and Invigorating”

Weesageechak 30 welcomes many familiar faces, including former Artistic Director Alanis King. The Odawa playwright brings her latest work, Bury which is an ode to the reclamation of the Anishinaabe language and a celebration of the resilience of those who have lived through the residential school system.

Inspired by her mother, her aunties and their friends, Bury brings their experiences at residential schools in the 40’s to the forefront, and highlights their resilience as children during that time. The play contributes to the theme of reconciliation through King’s Anishinaabe background.

Returning to Weesageechak, King is excited to be part of the festival – to be part of the milieu of sharing new work and seeing what others are up to, but most importantly, participating in a festival which focuses on feedback, exploration and public response. “To me, that’s an amazing treat after the playwriting isolation stage.”

We’re also excited to host King again and to share a workshop preview of her latest work – Make sure to catch Bury on Thursday, November 16th!


More from Alanis King

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Pam Palmateer and Cindy Blackstock – because they both fight endlessly against government’s historic and systemic racism within Canada’s institutions, they are crusaders and champions with big bullhorns.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
From my life and Anishinaabe heroes, language and culture.

Do you have any advice for Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Take it one play at a time.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Since the Indian Act, we are walking through political topics. Scriptwriting allows you to be political without having to practice law or run for public office. Our voices matter, no matter how it is expressed.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
Everything. It’s illuminating and invigorating.


See Alanis King’s Bury on
Thursday, November 16th @ 7:30pm
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Josh Languedoc:

“Honour Our Storytelling”

Josh Languedoc returns for his second consecutive Weesageechak Begins to Dance with Starlight Journey. Languedoc believes the festival will help move the piece towards production by sharing the story and receiving feedback from the audience and the Indigenous community.

Starlight Journey takes us on a family’s journey in search of answers to their young son’s mysterious death.

“…how can we as a society move past hatred and inequality towards one another?”

“What inspired me to write this piece was learning about Starlight Toursfrom the practice of police officers picking up Indigenous folk, driving them to remote locations and forcing them to walk home. This has led to many controversies around race and the use of power by law enforcement.”

Through Starlight Journey, Languedoc wishes to shine a light on voices which have been lost, and to ignite discussions around the lives lost. “I want my play to have audiences question their own sense of humanity – how would they feel if they lost a family member to a Starlight Tour? How would this act affect their community? How would they deal with loss and grief? And most importantly, how can we as a society move past hatred towards one another?”

Make sure to catch Languedoc’s new work on Saturday, November 18th.


More from Josh Languedoc

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
The land. As I reconnect to my Indigenous roots, I rely less on people for inspiration, and turn to nature. It is full of wonder and wisdom. My art features a balance of nature and humanity trying to co-exist together.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Trust the universe. It bestows gifts upon us if we are willing to listen.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
I think it’s very beneficial, but doesn’t have to be a part of every project. Some projects can absolutely take a stand and address the political tensions associated with the Indigenous peoples. However, I see extreme value in honouring our storytelling for the purpose of community engagement.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
Reclamation. Thanks to the wonderful movement across Canada, Indigenous Art is bringing back what was long forgotten. I see Indigenous Art as a way to celebrate and honour those who are marginalized. I see it as a way to honour traditions, storytelling and language that has survived near-genocide.

What is coming up next for you?
I will be continuing to write my play with the support of Workshop West Playwrights Theatre. I am also developing four Indigenous theatre projects as part of my residency with Workshop West.


Catch Josh Languedoc’s Starlight Journey on
Friday, November 18th @ 7:30pm
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Yvonne Wallace:

Art is active. It moves. And it’s political.

We’re excited to welcome back Yvonne Wallace with The Last Dance which tells a story of a young expecting mother who struggles to not become another statistic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She must be brave for both herself and her unborn baby.

“It isn’t going away without a fight. We need to make big changes to empower our loved ones.”

Domestic violence is a topic that has been pushed to the sidelines, with vulnerable women and children being forgotten and silenced. “I feel that there is a deep-rooted systemic failure in protecting our women. There is also a connection between domestic violence, victim blaming, isolation, and our missing and murdered woman crisis. Many lives are still afflicted today.”

“I want people to walk away contemplative. Questioning how we can all make a positive change to this ongoing problem of domestic violence. It isn’t going away without a fight. We need to make big changes to empower our loved ones.”

Wallace hopes to raise awareness on the issue, and believes Weesageechak is the perfect place to share this story. “Who better to work through these difficult issues than a collective of compassionate Indigenous artists?”

An excerpt of The Last Dance will showcase on Saturday, November 18th.


More from Yvonne Wallace

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
Listening to live music. Eavesdropping on public transit. Mostly, I draw on my life experience. Identifying as First Nations, Ucwalmicw, and living in contemporary society gives me inspiration.

What is your most memorable performance?
1995 Native Theatre School (CIT) toured to Pine Ridge South Dakota. We performed a collective piece Blood Memory. It was a during a Pow Wow and we had “the show must go on” mentality. Our set was in the middle of a run-down football field with glass and gravel. We finished the show for our half-dozen audience of children and puppies. Even though horses and motorcycles whizzed by, we were invincible.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
My Grandmother Lah. She gave me her time, lived modestly, fed many, and loved everyone. She was born in 1905, a residential school survivor, and mother of 10 children. Her security during her lifetime was minimal. When I think about her limitations and all the children she raised by living off the land with hard work and patience, her memory is awe inspiring.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t ever let your chin hit your chest.

Do you have any advice for new Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Keep at it and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. I know that there are many obstacles, but if you just keep doing the work, the work will find you. I promise. I’ve seen so many of my peers who started out with me do some incredible work.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Art is active, it moves, and it’s political. Life was already political before I was born. Salmon numbers were on the decline; My siblings were sent to residential school by the court or my mother would’ve been sent to jail. Most of my community lived in poverty and my non-Indigenous father fell in love with my widowed mother of 6. My whole life has been subjected to limitations, but I’ve never accepted those limitations. In unity, we all need to convey our truth.

What does Indigenous art mean to you?
I’ve been inspired by my peers and the bravery and intellect that they’ve shown in film, music, writing, theatre, visual art, photography, and performance art. Indigenous art has kept me grounded because we’re still here representing our Ancestors.

What is coming up next for you?
I’m working on a one-woman performance, Transformation. It deals with language revitalization. I’ve been working on my own fluency all my life. Capilano University has been supportive in making my dream, a reality.


You can catch Yvonne Wallace’s The Last Dance on
Saturday, November 18th @ 7:30pm
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