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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Totems of the Moment

Just landing out of a mind bending 4 weeks of workshopping Skyborn. I've got that copy edit of Kamloopa due to Talon on Tuesday and I'm spending the next few days dedicating all my time to that - after I take the evening off tonight.

Before I dive back into the worlds of Kamloopa I wanted to spend some time writing and sharing some moments that are very present from all the good work on Skyborn and others that have just been rattling around me.

1. 6 day work weeks aren't helpful. We had 2 5(ish) day work weeks and 1 six and the work suffered in the one we did 6 because the intensity of it. It's too exhausting and does not give enough time for reflection and deep thinking - the economics of pushing a 6 day work week does not save you $ because peoples abilities to work efficiently and swiftly deteriorates at a doubling rate by the end of the work week. I literally had to say to myself "c'mon brain work."

2. Indigenous theatre needs to be resourced a lot more. With eurocentric normative practices artistic leadership is relying heavily on methods and approaches that have been tried, tested and used for hundreds of years so the type of thinking and flexing is wildly different.

The cognitive exhaustion whilst creating a new artistic ceremony, story and method, if you're using comparative analysis, is quantitatively triple.

This is really important for non-Indigenous peoples to understand because this informs and rationalizes why our timelines are longer and why our resources need to exceed what is "normative" and why every time you think you "understand" you don't, we don't. I'm humbly unveiling the infinitely unfolding possibilities of what Indigenous Theatre is and what the Indigenous-centric methodologies we are innovating to execute them are.

You've had hundreds of years to create short hands with your designers and approaches under that creative pedagogy- we have not so be cool and truly think and trouble what equity means in supporting and resourcing Indigenous theatre practitioners means. It's not sameness - equity means getting what we need and that means subverting inherited systems of support and truly recognizing we need more time and resources than what you've been giving us.

Like probably triple what you think because the teams of people we need to assemble to build peoples capacities and onboard new knowledge, while simultaneously holding space for creative practice needs to happen with urgency and attention and that needs to be supported by the broader ecology - yes you non-Indigenous jury member.

2. Solo show performers should not be working more than 5 hours a day, this gives time for them to go work on pieces in their own time and space. In the case of Skybon the performer is also the writer so this schedule gives them paid writing time and creates space for the designers and other teams to do their work on the clock.

3. Opening and closing circles are necessary to be present and do the work. It's gets everybody on the same frequency or at least starts that process. It also helps identify who needs more support and assists in making informed ethical schedules. We missed an opening circle and the company felt it - was good feedback as we curiously investigate all of this.

4. Indigenous theatre creators almost always create by embodying at least two eurocentric theatre roles. They are usually writing and directing (I was also producing on Kamloopa), writing and acting (Q is also producing) you look at the Indigenous Theatre practitioners working at a level of compelling creative practice and everyone is in a multitude of roles.

We're consultants, dramaturgs, producers, actors, writers, directors, Matriarchs sometimes all at the same time and that needs to be accounted and compensated for. So when you see the fee's or you you're given the fees from someone coming from this community of practice and work, don't compare unless you know the depths of their work and what they bring to it.

Equity rates are BOTTOM LINES. If you're budgeting at that level - and you want to treat non-Indigenous folx with low level respect that's literally your business - but not for me, never, ever. Not for Indigenous folx doing all of this work.

I want to also state that Savage Society has never ever presented me a bottom line offer - ever. I'd also never accept one.

I've stoped accepting bottom line offers - even when I've desperately needed the money - because I refuse to support the status quo. Advocacy and activism is possible in any role and position of the theatre ecology - don't let a scarcity mindset (led by patriarchy and capitalism) take your agency to impede your abilities to be a part of mobilizing change.

I'm really starting to understand the depths of how theatre practitioners keep theatre practitioners poor. How I bear witness to the levels of arts leaders perpetuating this poverty and the levels of unconscious status quo holding going on is scary and beyond disappointing.

I always remember Marcus Youssef writing in a grant "do less better."

5. Scarcity mindset, fear based decision making is going to be the death of humanity - if it's not resolved. It is so deeply entrenched in arts practice, the conditioning of being treated poorly, totally disrespected and then creating art from there, I'm learning, is the foundation for the normative canadian practice and the leading cause of bad theatre.

6. Indigenous theatre on this unceded territory has the potential to move the world to want to save itself. I'm forever grateful for seeing that and terrified and excited to be a part of it. There is something remarkable happening on these lands and these ways of working.

Kamloopa and Skyborn are healing me in ways that feel timeless and bound to eternities of teachings. Now to keep listening and getting out of the ways of the blood memory and stories that live in all of us.

I've got to keep meditating on getting out of the way, refusing fear and keep voyaging into the peace that is Indigenous love.


p.s I'm headed into some deep work and land based ceremony time. It's been quite work marathon - this time last year I was deep into pre-production for Kamloopa and it's time to rest. I'm taking that time for August before I head back into school on the territories of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples.

My focus is family and preparing to spend the next two years writing and igniting that work. I will slowly start to see you on the other side of all of that.

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