The World Premiere of Kamloopa: an Indigenous Matriarch Story
One of my earliest Canadian Euro-centric theatrical experience was when I was 5 or 6 and my family went to Barkerville in the Cariboo or as my cooler cuzzins call it "the Boo". Barkerville is preserved as a historic town that reenacts colonial gold rush life. I'm actually laughing out loud about this because in hindsight, an Indigenous family romping around Barkerville is pretty hilarious.
We went to the afternoon show in the hall and boy oh boy I was pumped. I marched up to the front bench and plopped myself down. The lights and music began and two people came out dancing in what I would now describe as a vaudeville like style. My jaw dropped, what was happening was this real? They did this banana peel slip/dance joke and I was hooked - this was what I was going to do.
So that's what Kamloopa is everyone - one big banana peel joke hope you like it. Ha! juuuuuust joking.
That experience elicited the concept that I could tell stories as a job and I can't decide if that was a good or bad thing because stories had been presenting themselves to me since much earlier than that, they were being presenced to me from what I now believe to be my ancestors. Storytelling is not my job, I now know it is my duty, a deliverance handed to me from a long line of storytellers that came before and ahead of me.
A lot of people have asked me "you really think you should Direct it?", "you worried about taking that much responsibility?", "I don't think playwrights should ever Direct their work", "you nervous about being such a young playwright?"
I really appreciated having Weyni Mengesha mentor the Rumble Directors Lab because she was so open about how she still gets called "an emerging director" and she's been directing at institutions like Mirvish since she was 22 and was awarded 'Emerging Artist of the Year' a decade ago. She's created multiple award winning pieces, worked at Stratford, New York and she said "if I was a white man, nobody would be calling me emerging." So I'm very aware of the long journey ahead and I respect and give limelet to the woman like Weyni rigorously carving the path and holding space for the next generation. She's one of the most giving and thoughtful Directors I've ever met.
The type of Indigenous theatre I'm doing demands Indigenous matriarchs be the drivers and decision makers of the work. I'm working on a method that will hopefully fully presence the work - and it is embodied Indigenous work where the leadership has to come from the stories fire starters. With this approach it would be impossible to extract the fire starters from the fire keepers. I think in a few years when we've had more time to work on the method, I won't even being using the terms "playwright and director" we'll have our own terms to reflect the variety and scope of storyteller responsibilities on a specific journey, which I'm so excited about.
I feel uncomfortable with the term playwright and director because I don't see my role in that standard normative function. I see my role through my Indigenous paradigm where it's about holding space for the community to arrive where we need to for the work to presence itself and then we as the community members around the fire, bring whoever and whatever else we need to the fire, it's much more about eliciting a gathering.
I feel like my whole life has been my training to create and execute this work. So I'm ready. I'm ready and excited to share this story with more of the community because it is their story.
The World Premiere of Kamloopa will happen at WCT near my Syilx territory and on Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory Sept 13-22, it will then travel to the Coast Salish to premiere at The Cultch Sept 25-Oct 6 2018. Then it heads to Blackfoot and Cree Territory to premiere at Persephone Oct 16-28.
This leg of my journey as a storyteller is an exciting one, Kamloopa came out of the simple idea #NoDyingNoCrying. I wanted Indigenous women on stage, holding power, having agency and showing the complexity of Indigenous woman's lives. I've been working on assembling a team of Indigenous woman on and off the stage - so we can all sit around the fire, tend, create, bear witness and share.
It's been such a humbling experience, one I'm truly grateful for because of the teachings, relationships and love. That's what Kamloopa is for me - it's the tangible expression of my love for Indigenous women.
Limelet to the organizations and people who believe in what we're doing Western Canada Theatre, Persephone Theatre, Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre and the Cultch. I once heard that "money is your expression of commitment to something" which means that there's a lot of white folk really committed to Indigenous women - and that's pretty neat.
For Indigenous women,
In love, with love, from love,