• Kim Senklip Harvey

A Dark World Theatre Day

A performance can be focused on the staging of work for the purpose of entertainment, but the deeper composition of this ideology, is that a performance is the process of carrying out an action. I think in times of bounty, a lot of art can be solely focused on amusement but I believe in times like this, a global pandemic, we must embed action and deliberate meaning making into our creation practise.

Story making as a Salish femme, has always been a form of spirit work. For this conjuring, is a mystical act, as it creates a place of respite to nourish the bonds that have been broken between our spirits and the Universe. Theatre becomes a modality to greet the ether and presence our relations with the cosmos. And for this generous act, I profoundly honour theatre, this ceremonial communion that I believe, keeps us alive.

This ceremony is about process, a process that needs to honour all spirits dignified right to commune with the Universe. And if we leave anyone behind, we actually sever a part of ourselves and can never fully be present, arrive holistically - and we must arrive in full to truly be alive.

I hear some theatre makers call this a "blackout", that theatre is in the "dark" so if we're speaking about light, as something we use to give attention, I don't think we've been balancing the stage and giving focus to all community members equitably - at all. Before this shutdown, not all of us were being afforded a sustained presence, and a lot of people we're pulling focus away from those who needed attention and support to arrive.

In this paused time, I've been able to hear the innovation, power and methods of many artists who've been oppressed, asking for light and attention and who have been denied over and over by the operators, arts leaders who have been rationalizing and enforcing some community members sustained darkness.

I've been hearing from the disabled and crip artists in our community who have long been forging methods around access, distance working, alternative modalities for creation and working in physical distancing environments. Artists who've long been innovating in this practice, and I want to honour and give deep thanks for all your hard work and integral methodological practice you've been doing, while battling European notions of performance, and against imperial ableism.

I'm also hearing about the nuanced complexity and bearing witness to the deep endurance of IBPOC artists that I've never heard at this level before. I now get to bear witness to the power that has poured into spirits over generations and participate in collaborative and significant conversations, with space I wasn't afforded before.

Details that I could not have give sustained attention to before, because I was constantly fighting off the relentless invasions of western imperialists. Westerners, who were constantly saturating our stages with echo chambered stories of their neo-colonial pioneering.

They've now been silenced and there is a quiet in the ecology of theatre that is voluminously giving attention, to the those who have been oppressed and I'm grateful for it.

I'm grateful that the punishing white lights have gone dark. That this western shutdown of theatre, has gifted us the opportunity to reflect, assess and transform our stages, ideologies, understandings and appreciation of storytelling beyond the imperial status quo.

As an arts leader, no matter how stressful this pandemic time is for you, you have more time to reflect now, than you did before. You cannot use a crammed production season as an excuse to shirk the responsibilities of troubling the imperial systems of oppression that exist within your organization.

You need to use this as an opportunity to dive into one's own spirit and trouble the dogmatic ways of being. For far too long, your ontology has put many community members in the dark while you egregiously took centre stage. While you tried to rationalize the obvious oppression by every so often giving a special, or tried to circumnavigate the violent truth of patriarchal imperialism, by offering some temporally insufficient side lighting.

If you try to drag the past models into the post-pandemic theatre world, you will not just be a person who inherited deeply problematic, racist and oppressive models of theatre creation - you will be a leader in it.

The performances on the stages have gone dark, but the greatest act, the processes of creation and producing equitible theatre, is getting it's long overdue moment to be explored, staged and built.

Mourn the losses of whatever was cancelled, but seize the opportunity to radically transform. For it might feel like some of your lines got reduced, your scenes got cut and you won't get your curtain call but know for many of us, we did not even have the opportunity to mourn.

This delumination is changing us, its giving us time to pause and I offer we use it tp deeply investigate how we can evolve our theatrical culture and create equitable environments for every community member, to be given the space for their stories to be witnessed and honoured.

As a storyteller, I use darkness as a portal to to illuminate the intimate stories within the witnesses/audience members. A moment, to cause a collective pause to trouble the dark matters within ourselves. To reveal the bone structures beneath the sinew of our spirits. For I believe this vulnerable process of inner exploration, leads us to the place where the Universe exists inside of us.

I believe this human work stasis is a gift from the Cosmos. An opportunity to participate in an inner mystical expansion to allow us all to fully arrive.

If we are brave enough to meet this gift, we will transform.

With deep humility and in perpetual ceremony to honour the Universe's inside all of you,


P.S come hang with the Kamloopa krew today for a livestream in partnership with the NAC. You can click here to get to the fbook event page and the livelink will be posted there just before the 4pm PST / 7pm EST start time.

Illustration by Karlene Harvey.