Donna-Michelle St. Bernard: “hungry for the stories”

The creators developing work through Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 are not alone. By their side throughout the development process are trusted dramaturgs, there to guide and challenge the creator as they push the work to new places.  We have a great number of respected dramaturgs participating in the festival this year, including the revered Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.

Native Earth
Snapshot from Native Earth 2007. Clockwise from top: Catherine Hernandez, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Yvette Nolan, Erika Iserhoff

Currently the Playwright-in-Residence at lemonTree creations and Emcee-in-Residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard previously spent eight years as General Manager for Native Earth Performing Arts.  During this time, St. Bernard helped hundreds of Indigenous artists to develop their work, and she returns to do more of the same as dramaturg for Anishnabeg playwright Craig Lauzon.

Two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award, St. Bernard credits her time working alongside past Native Earth Artistic Director Yvette Nolan as having shaped her personal and professional ethic. “Her insistence that the work always comes first, that it never ends, that it’s worth it,” explains St. Bernard. “Her ability to acknowledge ‘exit wounds’ without ceasing forward movement. Tireless.”

Group by Craig Lauzon
L-R: Chelsea Rose Tucker, Craig Lauzon, Jesse Nobess, DM St. Bernard, Cheri Maracle, Jeremy Proulx, Samantha Brown

St. Bernard is working with Craig Lauzon on Group, a series of monologues Lauzon is developing into a full-length play. She returns to the festival to satiate her appetite for performance that aligns with her values.

“I am hungry for the stories of the place where I am,” she says. “Indigenous performance is one of the few places where I see my values reinforced, challenged and clarified onstage.”

Finally, when asked why Indigenous theatre and dance is important to her, St. Bernard responded, “Because I have a strong preference for things that are amazing.”

See Craig Lauzon’s Group, with dramaturgy by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard on Thursday November 10 at 7:30pm.

Something More from Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
The 2-Spirit Cabaret!!

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
The traditional teaching I most identify with artistically is Humility, because it is hard. I live in the struggle to strike a balance, to shine out at full wattage without overshadowing equally worthy peers and collaborators, to correct course when necessary.

What superpower would you like to have?
I’m good, thanks.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Try your best, even if no one is watching.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
To choose not to address political topics directly does not prevent one’s worldview from informing every choice.
So good luck with that.

What is your most memorable performance?
Channeling Live for Sulong Theatre’s Operation Lifeboat,
where I participated from 3,000 km away.

What are you craving right now?
A wicked graphic novel by an author of whom I am currently unaware.

What is coming up next for you?
I am currently developing my new show, Sound of the Beast with Theatre Passe Muraille as their Emcee-in-Residence.

To me, art is:

You can catch Craig Lauzon’s Group on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm

Header Image by Denise Grant c/o Playwrights Canada Press