This November, we’re delving deep into the rich language of theatre–of sound and stage, stories played out in theatres and on screens. This month, we’re reading plays by Indigenous playwrights. From a triptych of dramas that explore young peoples’ hearts through to the tale of a spirit who must learn to change her ways, these plays offer stories and lessons we can all take in, wrapped in the magic of words and action delivered in brilliant performance.
For more Indigenous reads, be sure to check out the recommendations on Audible Canada!
When you take something from the earth you must always give something back.
From the Kwantlen First Nation village of Squa’lets comes the tale of Th’owxiya, an old and powerful spirit that inhabits a feast dish of tempting, beautiful foods from around the world. But even surrounded by this delicious food, Th’owxiya herself craves only the taste of children. When she catches a hungry mouse named Kw’at’el stealing a piece of cheese from her dish, she threatens to devour Kw’at’el’s whole family, unless he can bring Th’owxiya two child spirits. Ignorant but desperate, Kw’at’el sets out on an epic journey to fulfill the spirit’s demands. With the help of Sqeweqs, two Spa:th and Sasq’ets, Kw’at’el endeavours to find gifts that would appease Th’owxiya and save his family.
Similar to “Hansel and Gretel” and the northwest First Nations stories about the Wild Woman of the Woods, Th’owxiya—which integrates masks, song and dance—is a tale of understanding boundaries, being responsible for one’s actions, forgiving mistakes and finding the courage to stand up for what’s right.
Reckoning is a triptych of three short plays: Witness is a dance-movement piece featuring a Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner who unravels as he confronts the brutal testimony of residential school survivors; in Daughter, the daughter of a teacher who was accused of rape seduces her father’s accuser; and Survivor is a solo piece about a man preparing to commit suicide as a protest against the insufficiencies of the reconciliation process.
The Girl traces her life from surviving the foster care system to her struggles with addictions. She fights, hoping to break the cycle in order to give her daughter a different life than the one she had. The Mother sits in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, recounting memories of the daughter that was taken from her, and the struggles of living on the streets in Northern Ontario. They are both followed by Manidoons, a physical manifestation of the trauma and addictions that crawl across generations. bug is a solo performance and artistic ceremony that highlights the ongoing effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma experienced by Indigenous women, as well as a testimony to the women’s resilience and strength.
A group of politically correct teachers are tasked with creating a Thanksgiving play for their students. They hire a Native American actor to lend authenticity to the proceedings. When it turns out she’s ethnically ambiguous the teachers are left to navigate the resulting pitfalls in this rich satire. Includes a conversation with playwright Larissa FastHorse.