These past few weeks I've been doing a lot of deep work and investigations into figuring out how I can be useful to the community. As I sit in solitude looking at the fading embers of Kamloopa and the crackles of other projects like PBD that gives bursts of heat, I find I'm questioning what's the most effective decisions I can make to position myself to serve the community in the present.
I remember I was on my first BCAC jury probably over 10 years ago and I'm gonna share who was on that jury because it's all FOI'able, plus I think it's important to share our origin stories. It was a room that I felt very fortunate to bear witness to and sheepishly participate in with Estelle Shook, Elia Kirby, Michael Shamata, Marcus Youssef and myself.
I think it was 3/4 days of jury work and it was around 2008 when the Government made a huge budget cut to the Provincial arts funding, I will never forget the almost 10 minutes of silence when the spreadsheet went up on the projector screen and that relentless black line came up to show who was going to get funded and who was not. It is now a tableau etched into my mind forever. The conversations preceding "the line" about how this would impact the ecology was radical and I tried my best to listen deeply and understand.
Theatre ecology and relationality to my fellow practitioners became an embedded concept in my work. I found myself reading stacks upon stacks of grants, learning almost the entire Provincial theatre history, reading about artists moving the sector, long standing institutions, old and new organizations, it was my ecology bootcamp.
I remember sitting there for hours in deep thought trying to place myself, be useful and effectively advocate and serve. Overwhelmed would be an understatement but I was there and being challenged and I liked it - I felt a part of it. I studied the grants and learned the history and towards the end of the process found the platforms I was advocating for which have not really changed since then - 1. youth and 2. the equitable representation of Indigenous and historically disenfranchised artists.
I found and still find it very frustrating and irresponsible when I see work that serves the same portion of the community over and over again. When I see work that is continuing to marginalize minoritized populations, when I read grants that never speak about their ecology, their service, their contribution and their accountability.
I guess I was privileged to be able to sit in that room and hear strong discourse around the work, criticism of our peers and ideas to evolve the practice. I was 23 and felt armed with a shit ton of knowledge and a profoundly evolved capacity to speak to the ecology of theatre creation and practice on the Coast Salish. And today still, my biggest questions when making professional decisions go back to that room where I think about the gravity and importance of knowing how I fit and serve.
This service also extends to my work as a Fire Creator because it involves my community work, this is also another good example of where settler terms like director and playwright become insufficient because I don't hear many directors encompass this into the scope of their responsibilities, especially if they are not in contract or working on a commission. This is vastly different than how I work because community knowledge sharing for me is the work.
I'm finding a lot of challenges in getting support to do this work but I think that's a whole other blog post that I'm going to have to write in the near future. I'm so disappointed in the systems of Canadian theatre creation and the lack of ethics and the complicit maintenance of Settler state hegemonic control. It really does frighten me and I'm not sure I have any power to evolve or even dent the dogmatic ways we know theatrical creation to be but we'll see.
When I think about what Mother Earth keeps showing me now are opportunities to do some knowledge sharing, I have a lot of Matriarchs and allies from so many places making gracious offers for me to come and work and share space with them and I think I'm going to lean into those. I'm also not talking about "self proclaimed allies", I'm talking about people making sacrifices and doing The Work to break down barriers and make space for non-Settler voices to be heard and supported.
Last year with Kamloopa the Fire company went to various academic institutions to speak about the work and practice and I found that to be incredible rewarding. I had the fortune of speaking at Langara College, Douglas College, SFU, UBC, TRU and many high schools and a couple elementary schools.
Next week I get to be a guest speaker for Langara College's Women's Studies Lecture series. The week after that it will be my first time working with Push to host a talkback for KIINALIK: THESE SHARP TOOLS on Jan 31, as well as be a part of their industry series Roundtable Field Notes. I'm also starting on working with Indigenous Matriarchs from UBC's journalism department for a longer term, in depth story which I'm so excited for.
February has me guest lecturing at UBC for their introduction to Indigenous Theatre as well as heading into Britannia secondary to work with the students who saw Kamloopa. An SFU course is teaching Kamloopa and I get to head into one of their classes for a guest lecture early Feb which I'm so looking forward to. I'm also working with The Canadian Association for Theatre with their conference happening in June 3-6 at UBC for a panel and another session on exploration on new models of critical engagement in theatre.
What I'm experiencing as I sit at the Fire is that there needs to be time protected and supported to discuss the teachings of what the flames illuminate, to create space to speak about and with the people who came to the fire and participated in protocol. The set and the costumes and the props for the ceremony might be packed away but what I'm finding is that the knowledge still needs to be unpacked. The curiosity around what we created with the community is presencing itself to be quite high which means we were effective in a lot of ways.
It's another example of why Kamloopa as a "play" is not accurate, it's a vastly different social and pedagogical epistemology. It's a ceremony that continues beyond the proscenium and with a relationship to knowledge illumination that extends far beyond the final fade to black.
I will end with an offer that I would love to spend some time over the next few months to bring some of the teachings from the fire to you, your schools and knowledge sharing environments. Working with educators on creating learning outcomes and relation based environments is something I adore doing. Shoot me a message and let's hang out at the Fire, I think that's where I'm most useful right now and what's most joyous.
With de-colonial love and respect for the impermanent power of our connectivity,
-Lawerence Paul Yuxweluptun
I wrote this on Fbook but I should state it here. I will be replying to work emails on Monday's and Tuesdays and using the rest of the week for my creative and deep work. I will also be scheduling all my meetings on those days.
Of course there will be exceptions but for your info this is the foundation of the scheduling and communications of my work with the community.
Looking forward to testing this out this year and hearing from you so lets plan accordingly!