Attawapiskat Is No Exception : New play examines the First Nations housing crisis

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Concordia University’s Department of Theatre will debut their production Attawapiskat Is No Exception, an original play conceived in response to 2011’s housing crisis at the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.

The play is influenced by the historical events and cultural practices of three northern First Nations communities: Sayisi Dene of Manitoba; Lake St. Martin, Manitoba; and Attawapiskat Cree Nation. It draws attention to the problems surrounding living conditions on northern First Nations Reserves, and enacts the troubled relationship between native leaders and non-native policy makers.

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Broad-based research about First Nations issues was carried out by all participants in the early stages of collaboration during the fall semester. Students involved in the production took a required course about First Nations dramaturgy, co-taught by Favel and Neuerburg-Denzer. In addition, Karl Hele, chair of First Peoples Studies at Concordia, gave an in-depth lecture on land rights, and participation in such activities as a visit to Kahnawake’ s Cultural Center, Mc Gill’s First Peoples Week, and the March for the Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women aided students in their research.

First Nations theatre is a new research field for Neuerburg-Denzer, whose area of study has focused extensively on emotion studies for performers. “Through the research and creation of Attawapiskat is No Exception, I expressly aim to help conserve and develop knowledge specific to Canada’s First People” she says, “so that the relations between native and non-native individuals and groups might be improved.”  Floyd Favel is a theatre and dance (contemporary and native traditional) director, performer, writer and teacher from Poundmaker Reserve in Saskatchewan. He is currently in writing and co-producing a feature length film, Sweet Cherry Wine, that will be performed entirely in Cree.

There will be a roundtable discussion after Saturday’s matinee performance about the issues raised by “Attawapiskat” and the ways the performance addresses the intersection between aboriginal and “western” playmaking strategies, including the special responsibilities of a predominantly non-native co-creative team. The roundtable will be moderated by M.J. Thompson (Art Education) with Floyd Favel, Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer, Karl Hele, Anik Sioui and Emilie Monnet of Odaya Drum Group, Chelsea Vowel (activist blogger and Cree instructor) and the student actors Tyson Houseman and Brefny Caribou-Curtin. A talk back session with the cast and designers will take place directly following the Friday night show.

Attawapiskat Is No Exception runs April 2 to 5 at 8pm, April 5 and 6 at 2pm at D.B. Clarke Theatre (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West). Tickets ($10 regular, $5 student) available at the door or in advance. To purchase tickets, email  your name, phone number, number of tickets requested, and the date and time of performance.

 

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