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Supporting Indigenous Communities One Show At A Time

Supporting Indigenous Communities One Show at a Time

Andrew Lamb is Artistic Director of Roseneath Theatre based in Toronto, ON. PACT asked him to share his experiences as we celebrate World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People and World Theatre Day here on our blog. Visit the Roseneath Theatre website to learn more about Spirit Horse.

This week at Roseneath Theatre we are rehearsing the remount of Drew Hayden Taylor’s Spirit Horse, and telling this story has never been more important in this country than it is right now. With the recent news of no appeals in either the Colten Boushie or Tina Fontaine cases, and the many demonstrations and protests across the country, it’s clear we need to support all Indigenous communities and do better.

Our production of Spirit Horse for young audiences and their families follows two Indigenous sisters who experience the realities of being treated differently than everyone else on their own ancestral land. An experience that is alarmingly common for Indigenous youth across Turtle Island. The play is inspired by the Stoney Nakoda Nation belief about Spirit Horses told to the playwright Drew Hayden Taylor by Sykes Powderface, an elder from a Stoney Nation Reserve in Alberta. Roseneath’s production is a highly theatrical and imaginative story in which three actors play over sixty five characters, accompanied by a live musician. Sharing this story for over a decade has been incredibly powerful, sparking meaningful conversations, eliciting empathy and encouraging audiences to self-reflect on how they can be better.

Cameron Johnston, Brianne Tucker, Lisa Nasson, and Anne Lederman in Roseneath's 2016 production of Spirit Horse. Photo by Ali Sultani.

Spirit Horse premiered at the Luminato Festival in 2007 and has since toured to every school district in Ontario, thanks to support of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Ministry of Education. ETFO used Spirit Horse to accompany the educator training for the updated curriculum that teaches an honest history of this land and honours the original caretakers. The ETFO teacher resources from our 2015 tour can be found at spirithorse.ca.

We are incredibly proud of this engaging and entertaining production that played on the mainstage at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto last season and has enjoyed five remounts since it premiered. This season we’ll be performing at schools in Thunder Bay, New Liskeard, Matheson, Timmins, Kapuskasing, Sioux Lookout and the Obishikokaang reserve on Lac Seul. Then the tour heads across the country to be part of Carousel Theatre for Young People’s season on Granville Island in Vancouver and returns to Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area for two sold-out weeks.

Roseneath is committed to beginning all of our school performances with geographically specific land acknowledgements that have been carefully crafted with the support of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (IPAA) and with First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) contacts at school boards across the province. We are also very humbled to have the support of Chiefs from communities across Ontario, a number of whom have seen the production.

The remount we’re currently rehearsing features three Indigenous performers – Lisa Nasson, Rain Richardson and Brendan Chandler – who will each speak to the communities they come from as part of the talkback after each show. The performers are supported by our live musician Emilyn Stam and our stage manager Allison Bjerkseth.

– Andrew Lamb, Roseneath Theatre

We love hearing stories from our membership. Have something you’d like to write for the PACT blog? Pitch us your idea at info@pact.ca.

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