Tag Archives: artist feature

Jeanette Kotowich: How do we give thanks?

Vancouver-based Cree/Métis choreographer and dance artist Jeanette Kotowich shares her character-derived performance Eloise for the closing night of Weesageechak 31. Bringing insight to the practice of honouring traditional territory, Eloise honours the inner terrain of the body, our ties to land, and the experiences that we carry from the land we have come and the land on which we currently stand.

“It was inspired by my personal reflection of territorial acknowledgement – a self-reflection of my identity as a mixed blood person and my relationship with the two distinct landscapes I call home (Treaty 4 territory of Saskatchewan, and the Coast of British Columbia). Eloise references the many different languages of dance and the cultural practices which I have chosen to steward through my artistic career.”

The performance experience is a provocation, asking the question “How do we give thanks?” Jeanette invites the audiences to think about our personal relationship with the land and the act of territorial acknowledgement as a humble and daily practice.

The last time Jeanette attended the festival was in 2016 with her solo work Steppin’, a contemporary expression of Métis jigging, and she will return to Native Earth in February 2019 with Raven Spirit Dance’s Gathering Light.

Catch Jeanette Kotowich’s Eloise in her Turtle Island Persona Tour tonight!


More about Jeanette Kotowich

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
As much as I can! This is always my festie approach.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Oh gosh, there are so many people who have supported my growth and development over the years, who have come into my life to mentor me in unique and invaluable ways.

To name the top few…Yvonne Chartrand, Margaret Grenier, Charles Koroneho, Starr Muranko, Michelle Olson, and Carlos Rivera. Each is steadfast in their strength, generosity, grace, and determination.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
I find inspiration from looking deep inside my questions and curiosities about identity and reflecting on contemporary modes of expression that honour my ancestors.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Those who are ready to receive you, will.”

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Listen to your inner voice. Create from that place. Be true to that voice, and the rest will follow.

What does art mean to you?
My artistic practice is everything to me. It is not just a career choice or a way to pay rent. It is a life vocation.

What’s coming up next for you?
I am currently developing a full-length, innovative, solo performance called Valley, with the generous support of Canada Council. Collaboratively directed by Charles Koroneho and I, alongside artistic collaborators Jonathan Kim, Wayne Lavellee, and Brady Marks, Valley is an interdisciplinary expression of the journey to one’s self. It is deeply tied to kisiskâciwan, the “fast flowing” landscape of Saskatchewan. A creative returning to land, body and identity, the work unfolds out of the robust and undulating land of my grandmothers’ mothers and great-great grandfathers.

Development is taking place throughout 2018/19: www.movementhealing.ca.

All photos by Daniel Paquet 


Tai Grauman: I’m craving an epic Métis love story

After a great performance in our presentation of Vancouver Moving Theatre’s Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way this June, we welcome back Vancouver-based theatre artist Tai Grauman, this time to Weesageechak with her latest work-in-progress You used to call me Marie.

Inspired to create a play for Marie Callihoo, You used to call me Marie centers on the history of Treaty 6 through the perspective of Marie. “I’ve always wanted to build Marie Callihoo’s history as she is only ever mentioned within her husband’s documented history. More specifically, I wanted to write her story with Louis. I always saw their story as an epic Métis love story. The more and more I dug into their story, I realized that I couldn’t tell their story without including their ancestors and their family who came after them.”

Following two souls in five different Indigenous love stories at five distinct periods in history, You used to call me Marie begins the journey in the pre-colonial time within the plains Cree community, and eventually leads to the final life of two young Métis people where the man marries a non-Indigenous woman, disrupting the bloodline. Through alternate forms of theatrical structure, the piece explores the ways a young woman inherits trauma from the matriarchs in the family. “I want to remind audience members to protect the young women in the family.”

Through Weesageechak, Tai hopes to work with Indigenous creators, actors, and dramaturgs to further grow the piece beyond the “Western” structure of a “play” and decolonize the way in which the script frames her Métis stories.

Don’t miss Tai Grauman’s newest piece You used to call me Marie tonight – Friday, November 23rd!


More about Tai Grauman

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Quelemia Sparrow’s Women of Papiyek. I have loved that play ever since I read it for the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she has done with it.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I have several: Margo Kane, Lindsay Lachance, Kevin Loring, Chelsea McPeake and Quelemia Sparrow.

They are all incredible forces within the Indigenous Theatre community. They are all incredibly busy and have all taken time to teach me, talked me through situations I had a hard time navigating, and handed me opportunities just so I can grow. Not only does their work inspire me, but so does the kindness they have shown me.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
My family and our history.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Make hay while the sun shines!

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Godspeed!

What are you craving right now?
I’m craving an epic Métis love story (which is what I’m trying to do with my play). I’m craving a play rooted and dripping in history. I’m craving looking backwards to move forward.

What’s coming up next for you?
After Weesageechak, I am staying in Toronto and working on another play called Her name is Marie, which is also about Marie Callihoo and a companion piece to You used to call me Marie, with Nightswimming. Brian and Brittany commissioned the piece as part of their 5x 25 initiative last year, and I’m really looking forward to hanging out and working on the play with them.


Nyda Kwasowsky: Hopefulness from Struggle and Survival

Choreographer/dancer Nyda Kwasowsky comes to Weesageechak with her newest piece Land of Many Waters, which was previously developed at The Bentway’s “This is Our Place” residency and Sketch’s Indie Studio residency. Inspired by the richness of her mixed racial background, Nyda uses movement language to examine self to share human experiences.

Land of Many Waters is an exploration and research into the ambiguous interior that she embodies and how this translates to my external space in relationship with her identity. “My research voices a versatile spectrum of stories from marginalized communities that have experienced generational cultural oppression. This multi-layered work shares the continued complexities of colonization, voicing the millennial experience, and our continued efforts to understand how we hold our space as autonomous individuals in collective society presently.”

Through a structured dance improvisation, spoken work, music and interview material, this work-in-progress delves into concepts of vulnerability, humility, undefined self, conflict, and growth.

“I want to share a sense of hopefulness that comes from a place of strength, struggle and survival.”

Catch Nyda Kwasowsky’s Land of Many Waters today at 7:30 pm!


More about Nyda Kwasowsky

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I am looking forward to experiencing and acknowledging many voices and stories that will be shared through the festival’s programming this year!

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
My family is my role model in radiating resilience, perseverance and strength which is my source of power as a creative. In order to share the expression of who and what my body has experienced generationally through movement language. The richness and beauty of culture that survived colonial powers will continue to drive my motor in voicing our stories, connecting broken landscapes and creating space for us to hold.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
My internal landscape is my inspirational motor. It directs narratives and intuitive choices that inform my movement languages and expression, in creating context and content to conceptual realities.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Create work from a place of strength” This was recently shared with me and it resonates with my current practice!

What does art mean to you?
Art is the understanding of one’s self, reflection and strength to question our place and space in our determined environment. It means growth, beauty and the sharing of those expressions to unite humanity to our collective values and core experiences of the human condition. Art is everything, giving value to what we are aware of as individuals.

What are you craving right now?
I am craving a home where cultures from a multitude of colonial oppression can come together to share experiences and voice stories, hopes, and dreams without identity politics conflicting spaces for shared expression. We can learn and change collectively, if we can allow spaces to be undefined.


Olivia Shortt: An ode to all the strange things I love

We are delighted to have Anishinaabe-Irish classical and contemporary saxophonist and noise-maker Olivia Shortt enliven the festival for two evenings with her works-in-progress Second Hand (formerly known as Echoes), as part of Animikiig Creators Unit, and her latest solo piece My Holographic Nightmares.

“[Second Hand] is a continuation of the development of the first version that I presented last year. I’ve been able to take time to explore and add onto this very personal piece, which is inspired by my family and a want to connect more deeply with the stories old to me about my ancestors.”

Tonight, Olivia presents an excerpt of My Holographic Nightmares with dramaturgical support of Patti Shaughnessy. As the name might suggest, the piece comes from “a place of weirdness, funny moments, and the silly things that come into my brain when I have my artist cap on.” While Second Hand has a more serious nature, this new piece is a companion piece to balance it out. “Inspired by the weird aspects of my personality, including my magpie-like attraction to shiny things and my desire to create eccentric noises with my mouth, this piece is an ode to all the strange things I love and enjoy as an artist.”

Bringing both pieces to the festival, Olivia believes this is an opportunity to showcase multiple parts of her personality: “I’m a weird person and I think both my works reflect that in serious and funny ways. I don’t like to prescribe ideas onto an audience and hope that they are able to see themselves in my fragmented works.”

“I’m still figuring out my process for the creation of my projects and I feel safe in the space that Native Earth has provided” Returning for the second time, “I feel at home performing in Weesageechak.”

Don’t miss Olivia Shortt’s “partially fictional, partially imagined, and partially nonsensical” My Holographic Nightmares today – Wednesday November 21st.


More about Olivia Shortt

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I’m very excited to see Maura García’s They Are Still Talking. I met Maura while participating as a member of the 2018 artequity cohort. We did training together in New Orleans, LA. I have always had a soft spot for dancers and think they are some of the most incredible artists and most interesting creators. That’s why I’m also excited to see Aria Evans’ In The Abyss.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I recently met Tio’tia:ke (Montreal) based superhero Nadine St. Louis. In spending just a couple of hours with her, I learned a lot about the Indigenous arts scene. She was introduced to me by one of my other heroes, Cole Alvis. It’s difficult to pin down one person as I keep meeting amazing people who take the time to connect me and support me as I need it. Some of my other role models include Signal Theatre and Nightswimming’s Brittany Ryan and independent theatre artist Yolanda Bonnell. Whenever I need inspiration, I look to the community surrounding me.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Find your community: whether that means other theatre artists, people who love to knit, or friends who are good at writing grants and are willing to teach you. The best thing in my life is my community. I love my friends and colleagues, and they are always there for me.

Having some kind of support and people to talk to are the most crucial aspects of my artistic practice and I don’t think I would be where I am without them. Always find your community and be loyal to them and love them fearlessly.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Being alive and Indigenous is an act of addressing politics in itself: Indigenous people still aren’t being treated equitably or with respect here on Turtle Island or elsewhere.

What does art mean to you?
Art is any creative medium that can be used to create a space for you inner voices to come out and exist in the same space as an audience. Art is the choice to be vulnerable in front of others and share them a piece of you.

What are you craving right now?
Equity in the arts. Equity in classical and experimental music. Equity in programming choices. Transparency from arts organizations claiming to understand the needs of today’s audience and today’s artists. Understanding and compassion from those in charge of arts organizations.

More POC / non-binary / womxn / Indigenous / queer / neurodiverse / deaf / non-cis-white-male people put into positions of power.

What is coming up next for you?
I am an organizer of the Toronto Creative Music Lab going into its fourth edition (June 2019), and we’re planning a lot around what will happen during the workshop itself (ex. panel discussions, events, performances, etc). I’m so excited for how this year’s workshop will shape up and am very proud of the work we’ve done so far on it!


Beverley McKiver: Our art is political by its very existence.

We are excited to have Ottawa-based pianist, composer and storyteller Beverley McKiver in this year’s festival with her musical suite Boozhoo Manoomin, presented in collaboration with vocalist Nicole Joy-Fraser and musicians Ruhee Dewji (flute), Steafán Hannigan (percussions) and Saskia Tomkins (strings).

The title of the piece is a combination of “boozhoo”, a greeting in Anishinabemowin, and “manoomin”, the sacred food of the Anishinabeg. “I have had a lifelong fascination with manoomin (wild rice). It was often served as a favourite casserole dish at parties in Northwestern Ontario in my childhood. I began reading everything I could find about the plant and was later elated when someone showed it to me growing in the wild. As I gradually came to understand the relationship between my ancestors and manoomin, I felt compelled to musically explore that rich legacy.”

The manoomin harvest is currently under threat as a result of human industrial and recreational activities. The sustainability of manoomin is indicative of the state of our planet’s health and well-being. Through this musical exploration, McKiver hopes the audience will not only learn more about the plant, but how it is intertwined with our past, present and future history on Turtle Island, and our responsibility as habitants of this land.

McKiver believes that our understanding, relationships and health are strengthened by sharing our stories, and Boozhoo Manoomin is one of the multiple ways she wishes to teach, remind, and bring us together.

Following the premiere at Water is Life (But Many Can’t Drink It) conference in September 2017, McKiver develops the piece beyond music for Weesageechak by incorporating dance and storytelling. “Weesageechak’s focus on Indigenous performing arts inspired me to apply. I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with other artists who will bring their creativity to add new dimensions to my work. I am excited to meet other Indigenous artists and witness their stories and visions.”

Catch Beverley McKiver’s beautiful musical suite Boozhoo Manoomin on Wednesday November 21st.


More about Beverley McKiver

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
As many as I can while I’m here!

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I have too many to count, but I am inspired by the ones whose names I do not know. They are the ones who passed on the flame to the next generation in the darkest times; the ones who whispered in their languages to each other when it was not safe to do so; the ones who kept alive the knowledge of food, medicines, and ceremonies; the ones who kept dancing when it was illegal; the ones who gather around the kitchen table to plan and dream for future generations.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
From a fortune cookie: Let your creative side shine through.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Take risks and embrace each opportunity that comes along. It’s never too late to follow you passion or try something new.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Indigenous art is political by its very existence since it was supposed to be extinguished.

What does art mean to you?
A lifetime of discovery and a legacy for future generations.

What are you craving right now?
A good walk in the sunshine.

What is coming up next for you?
I am working on a new suite of piano compositions.


Jessica Lea Fleming: Where does my privilege intersect with my Indigenous identity?

We are delighted to have award-winning Métis filmmaker, published poet, producer and former Native Earth Artistic Associate Jessica Lea Fleming return with her latest spoken word-theatrical piece The Properties of Spirit.

“[Since participating in Animikiig Creators Unit five years ago] I’ve set aside the play I was working on. I needed to step away and examine my Indigenous identity and personal history in order to create responsibly. I also continue to ask myself why my perspective as a Métis artist is important right now.”

The Properties of Spirit interweaves autobiographical experiences with Métis identity and the Divine Feminine. Combining spoken word poetry and storytelling, the piece is punctuated with soundscapes inspired by the land, water, and traditional Métis practices.

“It was an accident. After confiding in one of my best friends and a fellow poet that I had completely abandoned my writing practice, she promptly pushed me by sending me daily writing prompts. What emerged was a collection of writing marked by healing and rebirth.”

The Properties of Spirit grew out of Fleming’s deeper curiosity for her family’s complex history. “What does it mean to be both a settler and an Indigenous person? Where does my privilege intersect with my Indigenous identity?” With dramaturgical support by multiple award-winning artist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and integration of soundscapes, Fleming hopes “the audience feels trusted” after seeing her piece.

“Weesageechak is a festival near and dear to my heart. The gathering of community and sharing of works in their most vulnerable stages is empowering. My piece is far from done, so having the opportunity to try things out (and fail) publicly is liberating. That’s what draws me to the festival and helps me thrive as an artist: the support of the process, not the product.”

Don’t miss Jessica Lea Fleming’s The Properties of Spirit on Wednesday November 21st.


More about Jessica Lea Fleming

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I always look forward to the Animikiig night! I’ve also seen snippets of Canoe and Making Treaty 7 at different stages of their development over the last few years, and both are really exciting to me.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I learned a lot from my Mom and her late father, my Poppa. They taught me to be resourceful and tenacious, but to always keep a good sense of humour about life’s twists and turns.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When it comes to professional opportunities, don’t say “yes” because you’re flattered and don’t say “no” because you’re afraid.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Two things. One, I wish somebody had told me “Don’t wait to be perfect to start.” Just make your work, and know that you’ll keep getting better and better.

And two, it’s okay to change your mind and your opinions as you grow up. You don’t owe anyone a stagnant version of yourself. Sometimes other people want to keep us in a box because THEY are uncomfortable with change. Evolve on your own terms.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
All Indigenous art is political. Our very existence, the survival of our cultures, practices and genetics, is an unwavering statement that we won’t be erased or silenced. Indigenous people are beautiful, powerful and permanent. Each time we make work, we affirm that for ourselves and the next generation.

What does art mean to you?
Art is the freedom to question politics, relationships, “truth” and the self, an express those discoveries in a uniquely personal way.

What are you craving right now?
As a new mama to a gorgeous baby boy, I am unequivocally craving sleep, sleep and more sleep!

What is coming up next for you?
For screen, I’m currently in post-production for an episode of the new AMPLIFY series I directed for APTN, and gearing up to direct a music video for Iskwé in a few months. For stage, I’m working with some fabulous womxn on a collaborative new piece See the Circus, and co-directing another piece in development with Signal Theatre. I also have a few more performance opportunities for The Properties of Spirit.


Maura García: How do we honour our ancestors?

We are thrilled to welcome Kansas-based choreographer and dancer Maura García (non-enrolled Cherokee/Mattamuskeet) to the festival with her latest work They Are Still Talking, a 4-part homage to our connections to our ancestors through air, gesture, intergenerational trauma, and laughter.

They Are Still Talking emerges from the idea that our bodies are formed from our ancestors’ good and flesh. When we are speaking and moving, they are also reactivated and brought to life. We are never alone. So how do we honour them? Are we puppets reliving past lives? Where does what is uniquely ours begin? And does that matter?

Previously developed during an artist residency at Lawrence Arts Center, García collaborates with Odawa puppeteer Lindy Kinoshameg, musicians Mark Gabriel Little, Adrian Dion Harjo, and Amado Espinoza, and costume designer Mona Cliff to conjure an innovative multimedia dance performance. “My previous work dealt with planting and the season. This new piece is a little more human focused, but still contains the element of cyclical movement.”

García believes the opportunity will allow her to really delve into the subject matter and aesthetics. “It is a fertile ground for creation and presentation of contemporary Indigenous works, and I believe it will allow for this piece to grow significantly.”

“I hope the audience will talk more with their elders after seeing the performance. Find out more. Research their own families and nations. Reflect more about the connection we have to our ancestors, not just from 300 years ago, but the longer legacy of non-traumatized ancestors from 530 years, 1000 years, 3000 years ago…I hope it will inspire them to reflect on the circular time that is the creation and what their role may be.”

Catch Maura García Dance’s They Are Still Talking on Thursday, November 15th!


More about Maura García

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
Very hard question! I am looking forward to it all! I am particularly excited about other dance pieces, including Gashkigwaaso by Waawaate Fobister and In The Abyss by Aria Evans.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
They have both passed on: Benny Smith and Mitty James.

The former was my mentor who taught me how to pray in my language and so many other traditional ways. The latter showed me what it means to be strong, gracious, and loving Giduwagi woman despite hardships.

Where do you find your inspiration for your creative work?
The moon, the sun birds, people walking around, children doing weird child-like things, the movement of everyday actions or work, ceremony, water.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Wait for the grant officer or theatre rep to reject you – don’t reject yourself!

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Be kind. Be firm. Take care of your body. Keep your ceremonies. Visit your people. Do not give up and remember the art world is very small.

What are you craving right now?
Dramaturgy. Comraderies. Lively and accessible Indigenous performing arts community.

What is coming up next for you?
This!

Learn more about Maura García Dance here.

Header image, second photo by Jenny Wheat


Aria Evans: What do all human beings have in common?

Following the presentation of her solo dance piece link, which was developed at Animikiig Creators Unit, choreographer and dancer Aria Evans (Mi’kmaq/Black/settler heritage) returns to Weesageechak Begins to Dance with an excerpt of her first full length work, In The Abyss.

Interested in exploring the common ground between experiences across difference, Evans started researching what all human beings have in common and stumbled across the scientific fact and the beautiful metaphor that we are all made of stardust. This idea catapulted the work forward, as artists of various backgrounds, including Irwin Chow, Jesse Dell, Ana Groppler, Syreeta Hector and David Norsworthy, came together to offer their lived experiences in the creative process. “I love finding the metaphors in life that can be represented in the body,” and this collaborative piece is an example of Evans’ ongoing experiment.

“Native Earth has always been a supportive hub for my work. I value the community that surrounds this festival and the artists coming together to support works-in-development. I am at the beginning stages of my research for In The Abyss and am grateful for the opportunity to experiment with the support of a mentor and an audience.”

“This piece is exploring relationships and the struggles we face to find connections. I want audiences to be able to see parts of themselves in the material that is being portrayed and maybe learn something about themselves along the way.”

Don’t miss Aria Evans’ In The Abyss on Thursday November 15th!


More about Aria Evans

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I am really looking forward to seeing The Properties of Spirit by Jessica Lea Fleming. I have worked with her in many capacities but never seen her creative work.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I have many role models. Right now, I am particularly inspired by my Indigenous peers who are breaking conventions and finding new ways to tell our stories as Indigenous peoples. Some of these artists include: Yolanda Bonnell, Natalie Sappier, and Jeremy Dutcher.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
You are enough.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Try things. Collaborate with your peers. Ask for support. There are people around you who see you and want you to succeed.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Our existence is political, therefore our art is going to be political – just accept it and keep making art!

What does art mean to you?
Art is how I express myself and how I relate to the world. Without it, I would have no joy or drive. Art is a way of life that I will never stop living.

What are you craving right now?
I am craving for more open conversations around access vs. privilege.

What is coming up next for you?
I am working towards the presentation of In The Abyss this time next year. It feels like a luxury to have such an extended creative process, and I am basking in the glory of watching my ideas evolve and change.

Header image by Erica Cheah. Property of Dance Umbrella of Ontario


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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