The National Arts Centre’s new theatre department aims to create an inclusive space for Indigenous storytelling - The Globe and Mail - Canadanewsmedia
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The National Arts Centre’s new theatre department aims to create an inclusive space for Indigenous storytelling – The Globe and Mail

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Monique Mojica, left, and PJ Prudat perform a scene in The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Justin Tang

In a rehearsal studio in Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, the faint smell of sweetgrass lingers as performers rehearse The Unnatural and Accidental Woman, a shatteringly prescient play written two decades ago about a serial killer who preys on Indigenous women. In a cathartic dance scene, the cast place their hands to their hearts, to the ground, as if laying down their medicine, and gesture toward the sky. They let loose a war cry, weaving and swaying to the music. Beats and shouts resonate with majestic force inside the room.

It’s an assertion of voice and laying claim to a space that is wholly theirs. While in recent decades, Inuit and First Nations performers at the NAC have come and gone, this time their residency here is a permanent one.

In September, the NAC is opening the first National Indigenous theatre department in the world. Artists from communities across the country will share a stage with French and English actors, using the space to tell their stories. Although the themes may be those of displacement and colonialization – how it feels to have one’s identity, culture and spirituality shaped and taken – within those stories, they say, there will always be something to be grateful for. “The works that we present are always meant to heal and to expose the poison and to laugh,” said Kevin Loring, a Governor General’s Award winner who was appointed as the department’s inaugural artistic director. “There’s medicine in the comedies. And this medicine is in the celebration of our people, our work, and our stories.”

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Groundbreaking as the new theatre department is, it has still faced challenges since its inception. Heritage Canada did not pledge a requested $3.2-million, leaving the department scrambling to make up for an unforeseen budget shortfall. It has had to depend on contributions from both the English and French theatre departments. “Now, they have to fundraise with this department, as opposed to it just being baked into the cake.” Mr. Loring says.

As part of an outreach program, the theatre group created an All My Relations price, in which Indigenous peoples can get a discount to see plays from the season lineup.

Adrian Wyld

Mr. Loring has a powerful collection of works that show both the pain and the beauty of being Indigneous in Canada, which he hoped to bring to a target audience of Indigenous people. “I want to tell stories that are reflective of their realities. But being at the NAC, we’re speaking to a primarily Ottawa audience,” he says. Loring had hoped that the company’s work, staged in Indigenous languages, would travel to more remote communities where this type of theatre isn’t commonly accessible.

But with the loss of the anticipated funding, the Indigenous Theatre Department will have to get creative – find partnerships and scale down, or perhaps hold off on touring outside of Ottawa. As it stands now, the Indigenous Department has to consider that the English and French theatre departments, as stakeholders, will now have a say when partnered on a project.

The brand new department faces another critical shortage: The Indigenous Theatre department had planned to bring several nations to the stage in their own languages. Lori Marchand is the department’s managing director and one of her responsibilities is to find skilled speakers and translators. For her, this task has underscored how few speakers there are available and how at risk Indigenous people are of losing their languages. “Each language is in a different stage of health,” she adds. “It has really highlighted the frailty of where each of our languages are.” The United Nations declared 2019 the Year of lndigenous Languages to raise awareness of the endangered status of many of them. Finding people who can help the actors speak and act in one of Canada’s 60-plus Indigenous languages, and ensuring all nations have a voice on a national stage, requires substantial efforts.

In September, the NAC is opening the first National Indigenous theatre department in the world.

Adrian Wyld

The Canadian government loosely classifies Indigenous people as First Nation, Métis or Inuit, yet the reality is, there are closer to a hundred different tribes and nations settled across the continent. And of course, that number was far greater precontact. Mr. Loring recognizes it’s next to impossible to showcase them all. “What we can do is support the artists that are coming out of the communities and support the artists that have been doing the work and hopefully, be able to support [the artists] through mentorships and through partnerships. And through connecting the next generation of artists as well.”

As in any sector in Canada, Indigenous people are working hard to carve out a space where they can have a voice, in a land that was once theirs.

But a challenge remains, of making Indigenous people feel welcome. “The National Arts Centre of Canada is an elite space for elite artists and it feels exclusive,” Mr. Loring says. His team wants the community to feel comfortable coming the NAC to see work that represents them. As part of outreach, the theatre group created an All My Relations price, in which Indigenous peoples can get a discount to see plays from the season lineup.

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For these audiences, this could be the first time that they will see their own stories reflected on a national stage, changing the narrative and challenging stereotypes. For other audience members, this theatre will provide an opportunity to learn, maybe for the first time, what Indigenous peoples in Canada have endured.

The stories are tragic and thoughtful, scary and humorous, but they are also healing and provide catharsis. “It’s the theme of the season really that we are celebrating the resilience and strength that is bringing us through the tragedy to hope and transformation,” Ms. Marchand says.

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Ice sheets, pool, arts centre identified in Kamloops draft master rec plan – Kamloops This Week

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The City of Kamloops should consider building a performing-arts centre, a new pool facility and a trio of ice rinks in the future.

On Tuesday, city council was given an update on its new recreation master plan being drafted by consultant RC Strategies.

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A non-profit society is working with arts groups and the community to advance the arts centre project, with tasks identified: developing a new business case, communications strategy, enlisting community support through a membership drive, providing input into design of the project and fundraising.

Consultant Stephen Slawuta of RC Strategies said the city should continue to explore the viability of an arts centre.

“See where it leads and move forward based on the directive of that business case initiative,” he said.

An arts centre was identified as a top priority following community input in the draft plan, Slawuta said.

He added that visits to city pools has been increasing over the past four years.

While RC found the city does a good job providing most aquatic services, leisure aquatic activities was identified as a gap area.

The master plan suggests exploring adding another indoor aquatics facility with leisure activities as the focus and taking a deeper dive into details of such a development such as whether the pool should be a standalone or multi-use facility, costs, impacts on other city pools and a location in an area of the city where this type of service is lacking.

When it comes to ice rinks in Kamloops, Slawuta said RC’s investigation into usage suggests their are some challenges.

“In this case, your facilities are at or over capacity and that would suggest there is a need to increase the provision of ice,” he said, noting the city will need to invest in upgrading its existing ice rinks over time.

Slawuta said RC’s analysis shows bringing the city’s prime time ice usage — evening and weekend hours between September and March — down to 85 per cent from the current 100 per cent would require at least three more sheets.

“And 85 per cent prime time utilization is still a very high level of utilization, but we think that is a reasonable target,” he said.

The master plan suggests adding one or two new ice rinks in the next three to seven years, and another one or two sheets in seven to 12 years.

In the medium term, the plan suggests exploring adding more indoor dry floor field space when considering building any arenas or aquatics facilities, Slawuta said.

In the short term, the plan recommends continued engagement with the school district to ensure community access to those facilities.

Slawuta said the city should continue to monitor usage at spirts fields and ball diamonds and focus on quality over quantity of those spaces.

On a case-by-case basis, the city should explore its opportunities to make improvements and enhancements to those facilities such as adding washroom, seating and improving playing surfaces.

As for the city’s two curling rinks, Slawuta suggested the city continue to support those operations as long as they are viable.

“At some point, it’s likely something is going to call viability into question,” Slawuta said, noting possibilities such as a drop in participation or a major repair of one of the city’s curling facilities.

If and when this happens, Slawuta said, it would be prudent to discuss consolidating the clubs and retrofit one of the two facilities for a different, dry floor surface sport.

The master plan recommends the city more closely monitor its court spaces to determine if sports like tennis and pickle ball are in high demand and require further study, Slawuta said.

Indoor play spaces were also looked at, Slawuta said, noting those spaces should be considered when exploring future development and multi-use facilities.

The city should consider ensuring its existing recreational infrastructure is sustained before contemplating new development, Slawuta said.

Multi-use spaces should be prioritized along with inclusion and access, he said.

Feedback collected on the draft plan will be incorporated into the plan and brought before council for adoption at a later date.

The public will have a chance to give its input on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Sports Central Lounge in the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre and on Oct. 3 at Heritage House in Riverside Park, at 100 Lorne St.

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Hibernation Arts hosting poetry reading on Thursday night – OrilliaMatters.Com

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NEWS RELEASES
HIBERNATION ARTS
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Hibernation Arts, a local gallery in the Arts District, is proud to announce the resumption of its Wordsmith Series, with a poetry reading by Dave Armishaw and Josh Poitras on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

These two local poets have markedly different styles which actually complement each other. The Wordsmith Series started last winter, but took a hiatus over the summer.

This series will resume one evening a month until winter sets in, at which time the readings will be presented one Sunday afternoon a month. The $10 admission includes light refreshments, and the poets will have some of their work for sale.

This is a good opportunity to listen to poetry in an intimate environment enjoyed by both listeners and poets.

Hibernation Arts is also proud to announce the first of its house concerts with Sean Patrick and Darrin Davis, to take place on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The music will be unplugged or minimally amplified, so it is a good opportunity to listen to music in an intimate environment enjoyed by both listeners and musicians.

These concerts will be presented once or twice a month. The $20 admission includes light refreshments. Hibernation Arts is at 7 Peter St. S. in the Orillia Arts District.

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Love the arts in New West? Here's how you can help – The Record (New Westminster)

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Love the arts community in New Westminster? Have some time to lend a hand?

The Arts Council of New Westminster is looking for volunteers to help out with a number of upcoming events. Among them:

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RiverFest Pop Up Exhibition:

A reception attendant and bartender are needed to help out on Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Fraser River Discovery Centre, at the opening reception for this exhibition featuring the work of nine local artists.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, gallery attendants are needed to help supervise the artwork between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., or 1 and 4 p.m.

  

Culture Forward New West:  

On Saturday, Sept. 28, an outreach ambassador is needed to work from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the fourth floor at Anvil Centre. You can share your stories and your passion for the arts.

 

Gallery attendants:

Volunteers are needed on an ongoing basis to help at The Gallery at Queen’s Park from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays or Sundays. You can volunteer on either day, once every two weeks. Volunteers are needed to help ensure the gallery can stay open on weekends.

 

Email info@acnw.ca for information or to volunteer.

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