NAC Indigenous Theatre

Launching in 2019

August 19, 2016

August Update for Indigenous Theatre

Since the July update, the Advisory Committee:  Annie Smith St. Georges, Jesse Wabegijig, Kenneth T. Williams, Reneltta Arluk, and Dave Jenniss along with Sarah Garton Stanley, Brittany Ryan, have been enjoying even more of the Summer. We teleconferenced to finalize plans for our day long gathering in Ottawa, at the NAC, on August 23, 2016.

During our last phone meeting Brittany and Sarah met in a park in Toronto to call the committee. It was during the Summerworks Festival. Sarah was there to see shows and Brittany was stage managing Falen Johnson’s Two Indians. It was super hot in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Ken sounded cool calling in from Saskatoon and Reneltta and Carver sounded comfortable from Vancouver  - and Carver’s voice was really beginning to emerge!

We spent some time talking about exciting work that each of the members had seen or work that they were doing that was inspiring them. Jesse talked about the recent work of the students from the Centre of Indigenous Theatre and how excited he was by this new work, the rigour of the students and the leadership of Muriel Miguel. Dave Jenniss spoke about beginning to learn his Maliseet language and how excited he was about this, and how it was all leading to a new work, premiering in his language in the spring of 2017. Reneltta spoke of the plans to go to Iqaluit as part of the preparation for the show she is directing at The Stratford Festival next year. Ken is really inspired by the work he is doing with French Theatre at the NAC on a new piece about Gabriel Dumont, and the work he is involved with the new wîcêhtowin - Aboriginal Theatre Program at the University of Saskatchewan and led by Carol Greyeyes. Annie was moved by the passion and perseverance of all the committee members doing this work.

The committee will be meeting August 23 in Ottawa for an all-day working session. Peter Herrndorf, CEO of the NAC,  will be in, at the top of the day, to say hello and we will be working with Debbie Collins the head of Human Resources in the afternoon. We will also be touring the physical institution of the NAC to familiarize the committee with the existing, and under renovations,  spaces in the building and saying hi to other NAC personnel.

Following this meeting the committee will be putting together a set of recommendations for the NAC. We hope to share these with community in mid September to gather response, before the committee officially submits their recommendations.

As always, we welcome your feedback, questions and thoughts! You can always reach us through brittany.ryan@nac-cna.ca. We hope you will.

That’s all the business but...before we go...here are some responses to questions from the committee members:

Reneltta Arluk - What’s the most valuable thing gained being on the advisory?

“Working on this Advisory Committee is a way to make real change within and in partnership. We have a responsibility to make these first steps with the NAC be ones that will support and guide the Artistic Directors that will be taking these steps into new directions.”

Dave Jenniss - How have you felt working on the advisory so far?

I think the most important thing I brought to the committee was to contextualize and explain the reality of French-language Aboriginal theatre in Quebec. I brought up the challenge of finding actors, and suggested that the NAC create a pool of actors and actresses.

Annie Smith St. Georges - What’s the most valuable thing being gained on the advisory?

“It’s developing a team. Sometimes when I’m on teleconference, people are not in agreement. We all listen to one another here. People feel like they can share the difficulties they encounter. We still have to do a lot of work on the Quebec side. I find I am getting a lot knowledge through that.”

Jesse Wabegijig  - What’s the most valuable thing gained being on the advisory?

“I have seen that to make a project as large and culturally changing requires both time and understanding. Not only within those creating it but with the people it is representing.”

Kenneth T Williams - How have you felt working on the advisory so far?

“This has been an interesting and rewarding experience. You feel a great responsibility and honour in this duty. You want to be cautious, to avert the mistakes of the past, but you can't help feeling really excited about the opportunities an Indigenous theatre section in the NAC creates. I tend to be an optimistic person. I see this as a chance to lay the groundwork for creating great Indigenous theatre in the future. We have earned this place, we have worked hard for this.”

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