Tenille Campbell & Andréa Ledding: “through laughter and song”

What started off as a Facebook challenge for Dene/Métis author and photographer Tenille Campbell, has now transformed into the full length play Fancydance: The Musical. Written with Métis poet, writer and Facebook challenger Andréa Ledding, the musical will have a premiere staged reading at the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival on Friday, November 18th.

Campbell, who is currently in her third year of her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan (Aboriginal Storytelling and Literature), is an emerging playwright, and first time Weesaeechak artist, who is embarking on that journey with Fancydance.

“I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that” – Campbell

“As a new playwright… incorporating music and dance into this play was a reflection of storytelling – epic adventures, the blur between memory and reality, chance happenings that seem like fate,” explains Campbell. Plus, “I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that.”

It’s a different story for 2013 Lieutenant Governor Arts Award nominee Andréa Ledding: Fancydance marks a return to Weesageechak for this artist, who has written for the stage, print media and has had her poems published in anthologies. She previously developed her play Dominion in the festival, an experience that left Ledding impressed. “Native Earth is an amazing community of artists and creators, and we really look forward to tapping into that community.”

After hearing about her co-writer’s experience, Campbell took the leap and applied. “Andréa spoke about the festival as a very safe space to learn from actors and directors, and people who know the business and believe in community – not competition – and I loved that.”

The pair came together to write in a very modern way. “I was watching a bunch of musicals and comedies one night while avoiding school readings, and noticed the lack of Indigenous presence in most, if not all, these movies that I love,” Campbell remembers. “I went to Facebook to bemoan this.”

“I posted below ‘Let’s write one! Pow-Wow the Musical!,'” adds Ledding. “We kept talking about it and saying we needed to do it. And eventually we started working on it every Tuesday morning in my kitchen.”

“We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women” – Ledding

The result: Fancydance: The Musical, which follows Devon, a young Indigenous woman and her journey of identity while torn between two love interests. “We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women, and, yes, Indigenous men too,” says Ledding.

Inspired by the catchy music of her favourite musicals, Tenille wants to create a musical that can live outside the theatre. “I hope Fancydance makes people laugh, or hum a song as they walk out of the theatre, or phone up their friends saying ‘you won’t believe what I just saw,'” she explains. “I want this piece to create community and discussion through laughter and song.”

See Campbell and Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical on Friday, November 18th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with readings of works by Cheyenne Scott and Denneh’Cho Thompson.

Something More from Campbell & Ledding

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
TC: Our very existence is political so when we create, our stories reflect our survival and triumphs, and these stories go hand in hand with confronting the political aspects that we confront everyday.

AL: It’s a shortcut you can trust!

What superpower would you like to have?
TC: I would like to be able to teleport.
I would visit the world without visiting all the airports.

AL: I wish I could magically record my thoughts and ideas as scripts and stories without all that interface in the way.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
TC: No Hickies. Ha!
The best advice I’ve been given was to stay humble.

AL: Write about what matters to you. And don’t give up.

What are you craving right now?
TC: Grande peppermint mocha, 1/2 sweet, extra shot
– it’s Christmas in a cup.

AL: Coffee and a good book.

What is coming up next for you?
TC: I’m hoping to finish some work on my schooling, work on edits for a poetry collection, and write the plot outline to a novel I’ve been thinking about.

AL: I’m going to WBTD! And then Madrid! And I have a play being produced in Spring 2017 at Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre!

To me, art is:
TC: Essential.

AL: That which speaks to the heart, the spirit, the psyche, and the soul, as well as the mind.

Campbell & Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical
Friday, November 18th @ 7:30pm