Tuesday, April 27, 2004

. . . tremendously troubling night dream . . . helping a small youth learn to skate he falls hitting the side of his head after I have given him a starting push . . . going to his side I exhort him to stand up . . . he starts to shrink and transform into a newborn with a bruised head . . . he is dying . . . a doctor appears at my side as I cradle the lifeless newborn in my arms . . . we are in a hospital and the doctor accuses me of shaking the infant to death . . . I awake in panic . . . that was the dream

A picture named meatyard.jpg
Ralph Eugene Meatyard (George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive 29 Selected Images )

(special thanks to wood s lot)

Monday, April 26, 2004

"The goal, I think, is to give the reader that sense of being inside someone else's mind, to take them outside of themselves for a few minutes. You ask their permission to do this in the first few sentences, and leave them standing somewhere slightly different when the last graf ends. Not purely craft, not purely art—more alchemical, trying to turn type into air. Although the alchemists had it all wrong; all that time they tried to turn lead into gold, the printers kept casting type and publishing books, grateful for the cheapness and pliability of lead. Lead is not as malleable as gold, but words are far more so, and definitely more useful."(Ftrain.com | Voice By Paul Ford )

:: note :: . . . art as alchemy . . . check into art as vehicle . . . act into vertical energy . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2004

(Gordon Snelgrove Gallery Archives | Zachari Logan | SameDifference)

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:: note :: . . . a student whom in grades 9 - 12 really never exhibited such irony though did design a number of play posters . . . love the above piece Zach . . . title: Hockey Night in Canada . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"In a business notorious for destroying newcomers, Marla Rubin seems to have been blessed with good fortune.Her first-ever venture as a theatrical producer, a stage adaptation of the Danish film Festen, opened three weeks ago at the Almeida Theatre and is already a sold-out hit, soon on its way to London's West End."(Globe&Mail.com | Entertainment | Canadian teaches old Dogme new tricks)

"The payoff wasn't important when Maddin started filming his strange, delirious movies on weekends and showing them to friends. That was two decades ago, before he started winning awards, before critics hailed him as a savant and long before a production company risked $3.5-million on Saddest Music, which opens across North America this month. Some critics have called Saddest Music a masterpiece. 'It's set in the Depression,'wrote the Globe's Johanna Schneller of Saddest Music, 'but it's attitude is pure 21st century: a mix of irony, sincerity, melodrama and humour that's as intoxicating as the beer in the glass legs of Isabella Rossellini's character.'"(Globe&Mail.com | Entertainment | It's a mad, mad, Maddin world)

:: note :: . . . wonder who will here about in ten years . . . the making of an artist . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A picture named Breath
"there is nothing rare about the merging of the bodies of two strangers, even the union of souls my occassionally take place, what is a thousand times more rare is the union of the body with its own soul in shared passion . . . (Milan Kundera. The Joke)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"'Osborne didn't contribute to British theatre,' said the playwright Alan Sillitoe, 'he set off a landmine and blew most of it up.'"(Telegraph | Arts | Culture quake: Look back in anger)

:: note :: . . . just a note to self for future reference . . . the scene which students have worked was between the two women (Alison & Helena) which captures the patriarchy of '50's english society . . . a remarkable analysis of the role of women so often neglected when looking at this piece . . . look back in anger . . .

Monday, April 19, 2004

" City of Memory is a narrative map of New York City that allows visitors to create a collective memory by submitting stories."( Local Projects | City of Memory | Originally from muxway, ReBlogged by fruminator | reBlog Eyebeam)

:: note :: . . . a wonderful concept/idea/project. . . reminds me of Calvino's Invisible Cities (mp3) . . . moving with imagination I see a city beneath all the narratives writing itself . . . term after term I teach in the same room and each corner/space/wall/window defines territories of memory . . . spheres of actions . . . students never leave but pile into the invisible narrative space . . . it's a beginning of a new term soon and the space empties making room for the sun that glows golden on the earthen floor, lighting the while walls, illuminating the souls & spirits . . .

Sunday, April 18, 2004

"Stories are our wealth. Winter nights we tell them over and over. Once a star fell from the sky, but it wasn't just any star, just as this isn't just any ordinary place. That cedar tree marks the event and the land remembers the flash of its death flight. To describe anything in winter whether it occurs in the past or the future requires a denser language, one thick with the promise of new lambs, heavy with the weight of corn milk."(Floor of Canyon de Chelly by Joy Harjo) (many thanks to link champion wood s lot)

:: note :: . . . winter is over but snow early this morning . . . the last of it (i think) . . . but even into July we are never surprised with snow . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2004

: (by Peter Handke)

Refuse to make any statements.

Don't let the truth slip out.

Lie through your teeth.

Turn things upside-down.

Don't let reality become language, let language become reality.

Don't talk about language.

Get tied up in contradictions.

Don't write for today.

Don't write for eternity.

Keep everything in the balance.

Don't face the facts.

Don't keep both feet on the ground.

Don't set up rules for other people.

Stress the importance of conversation as first and last aid.

Learn how to die from wildwest films.

Recognise in even the smallest gut-spilled frog the absence of God.

Overshoot the mark in youthful exuberance.

Put your self first.

Don't try to put yourself in anyone else's position.

Write only about yourself.

Always act premeditatedly.

Don't exchange thoughts with anyone.

Seek to talk your way out by writing.

Distance yourself from all things human.

Go to the movies.

Lie in the grass.

Don't compose manifestos.

Buy black shoe-polish.

Get to be world famous.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Anglais They Say

            in the voice of Louis Riel

The anglais they say

I am crazy

the francophone       and the Metis.

But you old man

Why       do you smile?

Because you are gifted, Louis.

with second sight       like me.

But you       are not a man.

They       do not perceive

you       as such.

You       are a savage

who drifts

      over crosses

and churches

      and votive candles.

Louis learn to use this gift.

Smoke your pipe and wear your sash.

If I am gifted

      as you say


      do you       allow me

      to suffer?


      do you turn       into silent


      that disappear

      in the night?

Seven Songs for Uncle Louis : Louis Told Me in the voice of Evelina, Louis' betrothed

His Bundle

Thursday, April 15, 2004

We remember

We live

      within the fine line

      between the underworld and the sky

We have been here

      since Thought Being

      gave birth to shape

We have no choice

      but to listen to the voices

      caught between our

      joints as they struggle

      towards sunlight

We will know

      when it is time

      by the movement

      birthed within our ribcage

We have not forgotten

      our journey

      towards this moment

- Connie Fife

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

She Told Me

She always told me

to take a willow branch

and gently whip the spirits

out of the house

calling, calling

Ästam we are leaving

ästam do not stay.

She always told me

to put the food away at night

to cover the dishes

or the spirits

would crackle and dance

whistle in our ears

and drive us mad.

I obeyed.

She always told me

never to eat the guts of

animals while I was pregnant

or the baby would be born

with a rope around the neck.

I yearned for the guts.

She always told me

never to walk over men

while I was in my moon

or they would die from my power.

I thought that was the idea.

She always told me

that Nöhkom, the medicine bag

had given here three cigarettes.

That's why the lizards

walked around inside her head.

I watched the flicker of her tongue.

Louise Halfe

:: note :: . . . want to set aside some space for words not found online . . . valuable words . . words close to home . . . one more . . .

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

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"... in many cases the learning cultures at univiersities are actually not formally and/or informally valuing free exploration, expression, critizising, collaboration and sharing ..."(owrede_log | What's the blogging point?)

:: note :: . . . gone through this ritual too many times . . . from either end it has the potential to be much more rewarding . . . the despicable word standardization is now being proposed . . . as a student inscribed on a journal page: "the university is a place of [mental] disease" . . .

Monday, April 12, 2004

A picture named HOK.jpg
"Like a series of haiku poems his beautiful compositions evoke fleeting impressions of the world - the network of veins on a leaf, bruised skin, the glimpse of a room - but they are all abstract. The roots of his work lie in both Pop Art and Minimalism. "(Whitechapel Art Gallery | Raoul De Keyser)(via LookSee)

:: note :: . . . check out Grace X . . . the html works are daily mediatations/portals actively engaging/researching the imaginative spirit at visual play with the obstacle/limitations of art . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2004

"the symbiotic artist manifest | Art, as we know it, is dead. And this time is for good."(>>> context weblog sampling new cultural context | the symbiotic artist manifest)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Leave yellow face, white hands, red feet and black heart behind

Farewell thou Farewell

Thou left but left thy dream.

Our tragedy.

Not time to sob nor despair,

Not time.

Flower falls a soul scatters,

Blossoming brilliant and magnificent majestic.

The most heroic.

Why is that?

The place where petals blow is not only sorrowful.

Why is that?

Farewell thou Farewell

Thou aren't forgettable but forgivable.

Our hope.

A mission to illuminate and originate,

A mission.

Flower falls a soul scatters,

Blossoming brilliant and magnificent majestic.

The most dazzling.

Why is that?

The place where once the root was buried is now pregnant.

Why is that?

Farewell thou Farewell

Clearing the path for thee where thou desires to be.

        breath blows chant

        stamp drums the earth

        cloth carpets lifting thee.

Thou dance,

Free soul dancing rising wind.

Whirling petals calling rain.

The earth writhes opening inside.

A light beam shoots to the sky,

Leaving a small white dot,

And winked.

Ae Ran Jeong

:: note :: . . . written after reading Tomson Highway's Kiss of the Fur Queen . . .

Friday, April 09, 2004

At the fourteenth station we begin by turning back to the thirteenth station the taking down of the dead body of

At station seven we turn back to station six the wiping the face of

At the thirteenth station we turn back to the twelfth station the putting up with the death of

At station six we turn back to station five the beautiful simon's taking up the weight of

At station twelve we turn back to station eleven the getting used to the nailing up of

At station five we turn back desolate to station four the meeting up with the miserable mother of

At station eleven we turn back to station ten the stripping off of the clothes of

At station four we are almost there and turn back to station three the first falling down of

At station ten we turn back to station nine the third falling down of

At station three we turn back to station two the acceptation of the full expense of

At station nine we turn back to station eight the telling off of the city women of

Here comes the crisis of expected defeat at station two we turn back to the first station the washing of the hands of and the condemnation of by pontius pilate

At station eight we are not discouraged by the thought of turning back to station seven the second falling down of

it is here we must begin

:: note :: . . . a Wilfred Watson grid poem (without the grid) written for multi-voices . . . students presented a stations of the cross liturgy at the church of St. Mary . . . the power of theater & the fresh maturity of youth create a reverential presence . . . I am humbled as a director to witness their work and give thanks . . .

Thursday, April 08, 2004

"Pollard's Law of Knowledge: Trust your instincts. Instinctive knowledge is both more reliable and more rooted in reality than either moral knowledge (what is 'right') or rational knowledge (what is 'reasonable')."(how to save the world | Your Law)

:: note :: . . . be generous for everything can be better imagined with others therefore be open, accepting and listen to the other . . .

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

"In his recent essay Should Only Native Actors Have the Right to play Native Roles?, Highway desperately voices out against hatred (158) and calls for freedom (160). Hatred may be the greatest obstacle for Native people on their healing journey. Hurtful colonial experiences leave a scar on a peoples soul and result in a chain of distrust, blame and revenge. This is a universal, historical experience whether it be the Japanese occupation of Korea or the colonization of North America. Hatred closes the heart tight and even generates a self-destructive energy and a self-hatred which destroys the family, the community and eventually a nation. Highway succinctly writes, " . . . hatred, as who doesn't know, kills and kills completely"(158)."(Ae Ran Jeong | A Ceremonial Healing Theater

:: note :: . . . decided to post this essay after being linked to "colonization is by definition a closing, and decolonization is about opening." Chris Corrigan | Parking Lot via wood s lot . . .

Ceremonial Healing Theater

Ceremonial Healing Theater
by Ae Ran Jeong

Founded in 1982 the Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA) (Preston 138) has become synonymous for the start of modern Native theater in Canada and its course resembles the path of survival for Native people in this land. Tomson Highway, the artistic director and playwright of NEPA, planted the seed for contemporary Native theater and the seed grows and develops on its own establishing a unique function and place for Native theater. The specific NEPA template for theater as a ceremony parallels other Aboriginal ceremonies such as the pipe ceremony, the sweat lodge and the prayers of the talking circle. Theater as ceremony seeded by NEPA follows precise processes and practices to create a distinctive working rehearsal procedure. Theater as a ceremony primarily focuses on healing the participants.

NEPA was a role model for the Saskatchewan Native Theater Company (SNTC) and this company, which through the Circle of Voices Program (COV), began in 1999 to work with Aboriginal youth, explores the healing aspect of theater. Kennetch Charlette, artistic director of SNTC and COV, worked directly with Tomson Highway on the original production of Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. Mr. Charlette is a personal descendent on the artistic line Tomson Highway began. This essay will briefly trace Highway's influence on Kennetch Charlette and then follow the COV's collective creation Indian Time as it continues the path of the healing ceremony of theater.

In his recent essay Should Only Native Actors Have the Right to play Native Roles?, Highway desperately speaks out against hatred (158) and calls for freedom (160). Hatred may be the greatest obstacle for Native people on their healing journey. Hurtful colonial experiences leave a scar on a peoples soul and result in a chain of distrust, blame and revenge. This is a universal, historical experience whether it be the Japanese occupation of Korea or the colonization of North America. Hatred closes the heart tight and even generates a self-destructive energy and a self-hatred which destroys the family, the community and eventually a nation. Highway succinctly writes, " . . . hatred, as who doesn't know, kills and kills completely" (158).

To heal the "internally directed hatred, internally directed violence" (Highway 158) is a process. A process to break the silence and detach oneself from the vicious cycle. To be free and free in spirit one must face the place of pain and liberate oneself from the sore spot. Highway suggests first to unlock and release the anguish, pouring out the poisons in a form of autobiographical or autoportrayal theater. He practised this both in his theater work and his novel writing. Highway wrote the first draft of Dry Lips while in hospital where his father was dying (Schmidt). He snatched ideas from his real experiences. At first he had a dream while sleeping in his fathers bed:

It was a hockey game with this young man who was about 17 years old, and the women were playing. Something happened on the ice, and the man had an epiletic fit, started speaking in tongues, you know , freaking out. It was a desperate thing. So that's where the play started, that was the character Dickie Bird. (Schmidt)

Later he went to the bar near the hospital and recorded his impressions and experiences providing the source for the bar scenes in Dry Lips. During the workshops for Dry Lips which involved sessions of talking and discussing material with the actors, playwright and dramaturge, Mr. Charlette shared stories of his brother suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). He gave Highway personal insights into FAS that became integrated into the part of Dickie Bird which Charlette performed. Billy Meresty, in an interview, also revealed facets about his character Simon Starblanket :

It involved a young man who accidently killed himself. It was based on this young man's real life back home. All of those stories, all of those events, all those tragedies, humour and joy are actually based in real life with real people, our relatives. (Tinguely)

Highway recalled that, " . . . all this time my father was dying . . . The first draft blew out of me as a cry of despair . . . So the play came from the heart, it was a cry, it came from such a deep place" (Schmidt).

Charlette was convinced, right from the beginning of his participation in the workshops of Dry Lips that negative events must be retold and shared so they can be addressed in order for the healing to begin. Only in the recognition can the process be activated towards a healthier attitude and healthier mind. "Only then one can deal with it for what it truly is" (Charlette). He sensed this process of talking out, transforming into theater and the presentation to a public was an essential step to objectifying the internally directed hatred and violence felt by the story owners and that within a safe environment a person may study each problem/poison allowing for the possibility to build strength and courage to face ones own weaknesses. This was the ceremony of theater healing centered on the bravery to face ones own truth and to passionately care with each and every single step.

Rene Highway viewed Dry Lips "as a release for something that has been lurking in our psyches for years & years & years, It is a massive release to see it on stage" (Preston 149). Kennetch Charlette paid homage to Dry Lips, saying it deeply shaped who he was (Charlette). One key that he identified in this process of opening up was the idea that the actors needed to help Highway complete the script. The words of dramaturge Hibbert still echo in his ears to this day: "the process is always about the writer and what the writer needs" (Charlette).

So the actors shared their stories, read the drafts and discussed the script. This shocked the young Charlette who fantasized the struggling writer locked away and isolated in his room in artistic agony finally emerging weeks later with a genius, brilliant product. Highway was always approachable and open to suggestions about character and dialogue. He asked if the stories were working and rewrote material if people suggested changes. Charlette witnessed how a play developed and how his story was needed and he learned how to work with others in creating a script. This was a priceless teaching and it shaped Charlette's vision for the COV and later became an integral part of the ceremonial theater healing process.

Dry Lips changed Charlette's life. He recalled his naive desire to become a great artistic star making millions of dollars, having girl friends and attending fabulous parties. At the time he was a drug and alcohol user, basically destroying himself. While performing the play he "felt the aspects of it" and decided to clean up his life. It was not easy. Failing many times, he sank deeper down till on the advice of other Native people he went back to the Sweat Lodge. That was it! He was never to turn back and succeeded in quitting all substance abuse in 1992 - three years after Dry Lips. He claimed it was the culture that centered him. Native culture pulled him through and kept him healthy. He overcame the eurocentric stereotypes which marginalized him and systematically robbed him of his identity while stamping him a second class pseudo-European, a foreigner to himself.

During the Dry Lips rehearsals at Passe Muraille Theater, Highway always had "a medicine man of a ceremony at the beginning [and] we had an elder come in, Max Ireland, an Onaida man"(Schmidt) who gave a remarkable supportive prayer. This was cultural strengthening for the actors. Even the choice of actors was a deliberate act of communal strengthening of the Native community. Highway chose Native actors who had never acted before. Alan Hibbert, the participating dramaturge observed:

On a philosophical level, to see that Tomson was willing to take a sub par professional actor in order to teach, in order to get that contribution of other Native people . . . Tomson was very committed to his community, so he’d take a lesser performance and come out richer on the pedagogical level. (Schmidt)

It was no coincidence that Charlette, three years after Dry Lips, would turn to his culture for assistance as this cultural connection had been introduced earlier during the Dry Lips rehearsals.

The final lessons of Dry Lips was to come. During the creative collaboration Charlette understood the focus on women and how they represented all people and their plight and how people were abused and abused themselves in a raping of their own culture. Highway realized that these concepts were controversial but he did not expect that the harshest criticism would emanate from the Aboriginal community. Charlette witnessed the power of theater to challenge. Charlette discerned that the Aboriginal community was not fully aware or able to face many questions:

. . . if one questions their very own belief system and puts them off balance they tend to get a little irritated, shall we say? But the irritation that they feel is something that forces us to re-look at ourselves . . . (Charlette)

Charlette felt with conviction that without accepting and then facing the loss of their culture the Aboriginal community would not be able to truly heal. To ignore the negative would only generate a fantasy. Charlotte states:

When I look back now, wow, it was just incredible. What we have achieved and what he [Highway] did to move the Native theater in Canada, it's just phenomenal. I still refer to Tomson Highway as a granddaddy of us all because he was such an influence in my life, I keep moving forward with him in mind all the time because I've seen him struggle through all. I've seen the criticism he's taken and live through and still takes. But he's still here and he's still writing. I hope that he continues. (Charlette)

Charlette now understood a theater practice based on his own personal journey of ceremonies, rituals and talking sessions with all types of collaborators from elders to fellow actors. He appreciated the theater art not from a eurocentric source but from his own cultural essence.

Charlette's sense of mission was further intensified during the shooting of the film Big Bear. Despite the increase of "brown faces" in mainstream stage, film and television there existed few opportunities for young native actors to prepare outside the traditional training institutions so controlled by the exclusive "whiteness" of dominant society. The Native voice with all its distinctive cultural song and dance, movement and imagination was ignored at best and at worst dismantled. Young native actors would learn the mechanics of theater which questioned their cultural context and asked them to fit into the needs of established conventions.

Charlette saw his work with Highway as a gift to share with others and he assumed the responsibility of providing hope and support to those with desires to be an artist free from any cultural guilt. He wanted to correct the notion that being Native was something to be overcome and eliminated. After all, Charlotte pointed out:

We are not to be revolutionary against the system but we are going to make the system pay notice to us because we are not going away, we are going to be here for an awful long time. (Charlette)

SNTC is born from the same impulse that led Tomson Highway, as a little Indian boy to grind his teeth and "[dare] to dream of a career in the theater" (Highway 153). SNTC was born so that Indian people could take control over their own lives and destiny. Cultural identity, the chronic Canadian headache, would be celebrated by SNTC and flourish with the COV program.

Charlette knew the healing power of his tool, theater. He believed that a lack of cultural identity was at the center of the native youth crisis. For Charlette, culture was the aim and at the same time the push to draw people forward. He knew to respect the ceremonies and the pedagogical force that was at the heart of all ceremonies to point to the question of who we are. He knew that the essence of the ceremonial healing theater must follow this path of traditional rituals and ceremony leaving entertainment behind. When asked what is the difference between theater and ceremony and ritual he answers without hesitation "None!" (Charlette).

The term ceremony/ritual, used by Charlette, is a loose philosophical term. In our materialistic, money centred world we search for a place to belong. According to Charlette each person is a spirit entity. It is ridiculous to be spiritual on this earth because we already are a spirit. What is important is to know that one is a spirit and to learn how to be a human being. Since as a human we are mortal we can never answer all the mysteries that surround us. In this limited time one can learn about oneself: Who is one? Why one is here? What is ones specific gift? To exist as a human is itself about ritual. Ritual is life itself. Free from the idea that ritual is religious, the actor working on the body, the mind and voice is an incredible ritual, a ritual journey towards an understanding of this precious life.

Supported by this potent philosophy the COV program consists of three practical elements: a cultural component, a theater based component and a life skills and career component. The eight month program starts with the cultural element. COV introduces the pipe ceremony, the sweat lodge and culminates in participation in the sun dance. The theater element with its actor training, rehearsal process, opening night and touring begin well into the third month. Finally the life skills and career preparation takes the focus for the last months as resources from university and experts in particular fields are invited to provide council as the participants begin to make future plans. The 2004 COV program collaborated with playwright Drew Hayden Taylor to produce Indian Time.

The talking circle is at the heart of the COV program. In the talking circle participants establish a trust towards each other and the program. Their boundaries are revealed and their personal struggles emerge. Charlette comments:

Sometimes it goes really deep. We try to allow them to speak their minds and their hearts and to dig down deep to those things that are painful and hurtful even downright ugly and to bring them up.

The talking circle creates a safe environment where they are protected with their raw emotions. Elder in residence, Earnie Poundmaker is always present guiding and praying. Poundmaker maintains that the most important attitude for the talking circle is non judgement. In fact the talking circle is fundamentally listening. When they listen Poundmaker believes that "the answers always come out from themselves not given to them" (Poundmaker). A trust is built by listening and sharing and the talking circle serves the healing journey.

There are three types of circles; the talking circle, the sharing circle and the healing circle. All circles start with a prayer and the ritual smudging. There is a feather to be held by the one talking and the rest listen. The feather goes around the circle with its own time. No one talks without the feather. They listen. If it is a talking circle the participants talk openly on any kind of subject or issue. Each person will share and speak out. The circle values just speaking the truth from the heart. If it is a sharing circle one person becomes the focus and is allowed to speak on something that has specifically happened. The subject is limitless. One allows oneself to share while the rest listen. When finished the others will speak as a response.

The healing circle is formed when one is ill either physically, mentally or emotionally. A person is placed at the center of the circle and the circle prays for the person. The person asks for healing. Poundmaker and Charlette both believe the grandmothers and grandfathers are present in circles to guide and help the participants. Nobody controls the circle. Charlette asserts that "the circle controls the circle. You get that many people and that many spirits sitting in a circle, depending on the prayers and where everybody is at, they can be incredibly powerful" (Charlette).

From the talking circles COV has developed a working process to create a script. The personal stories are transformed into a theatrical story. After the talking circles are established the professional writer comes in and becomes a part of the circle. The playwright and youth participants get to know each other and slowly open to each other. Then an interview process takes place between them one and one. Taking down all information, they discuss the play, the structure, plot, storyline, characters, and everything. Meantime permission is asked from the story owners to use their story in the final script. Then the playwright goes away for three or four weeks to write and comes back with a working draft. They spend another week in talking circles. Once a final script is drafted, COV has a permission to change it during rehearsals. The rehearsal process, directed by Charlette, breathes life into the script. Drew Hayden Taylor, the 2004 COV playwright notes in the program of Indian Time:

This fabulous group of youth (and when did 18-24 year olds start looking so young) came up with the concept, the storyline, and the issues themselves. I was just their humble vehicle, slapping some dialogue and character names on the story they wanted to tell... I don't know who learned more, myself or them.

It might be scary for the participants to watch their own life story acted out by others on stage, however Charlette believes in the power of story. The truthful story has its own energy which reaches out to other people who need help. By allowing personal experience to go public, one affects others in many unexpected ways. Charlette tells the story owner to be "not fearful but proud." From his own experience, Charlette insists,

All those negative emotions like fear, jealousy, and anger take control of us and lead us down to a very destructive path or a very painful path but when you understand that the fear is just like laughter and happiness, these emotions belong to you. You can learn how to take control of that and not let it control you. (Charlette)

One way of controlling painful emotions is to pour them out and objectify them. As Highway quotes "...before the healing can take place, the poison must first be exposed..." (quote in Dry Lips). Participants confront their weaknesses watching them over and over again during the three week rehearsal, two week run and touring. By the end we hope that participants are stronger. Thomas King writes about this creating the story of who we are:

I'm sure he [my father] didn't leave because he hated me, just as I'm, sure that my mother didn't stay because she loved me. Yet this is the story I continue to tell myself, because it's easy and contains all my anger, and because, in all the years, in all the tellings, I've honed it sharp enough to cut bone" (25).

Pain is brutal to expose and tough to heal. COV does not hesitate to be cruel for the healing process is not always gentle. Native youth have grown up with the stereotypical image of the urban Indian. Poundmaker lists the negative forces that they face all the time:

He is lazy, he is drunk, he is a b&e artist, he belongs to a gang, he is not capable of holding down a job, he is not capable of remaining at school... If one is instilled with these over and over, one begins to accept those negative forces whenever a life crisis occurs.

Poundmaker continues, "It creates a lot of anger and a lot animosity and certainly doesn't do a whole lot for a person's self esteem and their confidence as a human being." Well, we have heard all this before.

One day when I was down at the SNTC theater space researching this essay, a beautiful spring sun called us out during the break. I stood with the youth who were smoking, chatting, and laughing in front of SNTC on the street. Four little kids were coming towards us playing and running. They were looking at us singing "dirty brown, stinky brown, drunk brown." I was so embarrassed not knowing what to do. Immediately I felt an impulse to distance myself from the COV youth. I produced a distorted smile and blushed. I was thankful that I was not a brown Indian watching those little brats disappear. When I looked to the COV participants I despaired at their callousness and apathy. Breaking the numbness, R said "well, I was like that when I was little" and another answered "you are still." They all burst out laughing but I had to hold back tears.

Another day, a guy from the street yelled into the SNTC office, "I have five dollars in my pocket and I have to pay tax to feed these fat Indians..." The guy disappeared and the COV staff came to me asking what he said. I answered, "oh, I... Couldn't hear."

The greatest responsibility for COV is "to reinforce the sense of identity, that our way, that being an Indian person is a good thing," Poundmaker remarks. He continues:

It is through seeking out the original connection between people and Mother Earth that one feels oneself as part of a bigger-self which is the living force that is universe. One stands in the field rooted deeply in the earth empowering oneself. (Poundmaker)

Through the ceremonies and rituals with which Poundmaker assists and the theater that Charlette directs and finally with the life skills and career information the participants fight to hold on to their identity building. Self-destruction caused by self-hatred is the single most serous problem for Native youth today. COV helps them in every possible way. Charlette loves the SNTC motto, "Make It Happen!" Once they build a better sense of who they are, they know how to help themselves and view the world through a healthier frame. Participants become much more confident after COV and they are able to "Make It Happen."

From Dry Lips to Indian Time, Native theater has moved many Indians to a rich time and to a safe place through the ceremonial healing theater. Tomson Highway left Canada feeling "a pressure cooker environment" (158) due to hatred, political correctness, criticism, and a "stultifying and asphyxiating" (159) milieu. He deplores the lack of diversity and challenges "should only Native actors have the right to play Native roles?" It is an urgent cry of freedom, "what we all need, desperately, is room to breathe!" (Highway 159).

It is time for Charlette to prepare an answer. Thanks to Highway throwing the question out Charlette searches for an answer to 'grand daddy's question' as he moves forward one step at a time, which is a hard won lesson from the Indian Time equation.

Works Cited

Charlette, Kennetch. Personal interview. 28 March, 2004.

Highway, Tomson. "Should Only Native Actors Have the Right to play Native Roles?" Rose. Burnaby, B.C. : Talonbooks, 2003. 152-160.

------ Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. Saskatoon, Sask. : Fifth House, c1989.

King, Thomas. The truth about stories : a native narrative. Toronto : House of Anansi Press, 2003.

Poundmaker, Earnie. Personal interview. 26 March, 2004.

Preston, Jennifer. "Weesageechak Begins to Dance: Native Earth Performing Arts Inc.." The Drama Review (TDR), Vol.36 No.1. School of Arts, New York University, 1992. 135-159.

Schmidt, Susannah. "Interview with Tomson Highway." Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing by Tomson Highway. May, 1998.

------ "Interview with Alun Hibbert, Dramaturg." Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing by Tomson Highway. May, 1998.

Taylor, Hayden Drew. "Playwright's Notes." Indian Time. Saskatchewan Native Theater Company (SNTC). March 26- 8 April, 2004.

Tinguely, Vincent. "Interview with Billy Merasty, Actor." Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing by Tomson Highway. 12 June,1998.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

She dreamed ...

A beautiful village in full celebration, colourful flags whipping in the wind, lots of food & drink, song & dance, laughter & story telling. Friends calling out to me to sing and dance for it is my turn. I sing and dance finishing to much applause and laughter.

I go to the gate where my teacher wishes to enter & share in the celebration.

He is stopped by a group of guards.

He calls out, "Let me in I want to dance, sing and enjoy the revelries with all of you."

"You can't enter," they pronounce, "you are dead!"

I am shocked. I can't believe it. I am absolutely stunned. I want them to let him in. They refuse. I want to contact him and the guards let me out. I can get out but they won't let him in.

There, in front of the gate, sits my teacher singing. The moment he starts singing the whole village turns black & white as if his exquisite lament expressing his sorrow evaporates the colours around us and a grey fog descends down on the whole village.

All the faces of the people become expressionless & emotionless. Only I am animated and I turn to my teacher who continues to sing and I listen to the words.

Life is like the wind / Yesterday joy/ Today gone/ The wind that stops in the night/ Life is like the wind/ Coming & going / Nothing remains forever.

He gets up and turns to walk away down the path to another gate. Even though the path is full of people, all in black & white, he makes no effort to talk to anyone. His family and all the people he knew walk by him as he gently blows by them like a sorrowful wind.

He enters another gate to perform the ritual of leave taking. I couldn't accept his going so I tried to give him the song of life but I can't sing. All that comes out of my mouth is a loud scream.

The emperor of the dead watches over him smiling and my teacher turns with tears in his eyes and with all his anger shouts out, "I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye! You didn't even give me five minutes to say goodbye. This is so unfair. Please, I am not dead. I need time to finish what I have started an people to see and this is all too sudden. Give me another chance."

The emperor replied, "You can't go back. Life & Death is not like that. You have to prepare before not after. You are now in this world."

"Please just one more minute."


I heard all this and I tried to say goodbye but all that came out was a scream.

My teacher cried out with regret and anger; "Life is meaningless. What have I done. I don't want to die like this but what can i do! So many mistakes." and he continued on towards the final gate where a gathering of black & white people waited for him embracing him singing and dancing.

I tried to join them but knew i couldn't for that was the place of the dead. I watched from outside the gate .

... That was the dream.

Monday, April 05, 2004

"Learning and improvisation are closely related, at least, I believe they are. The idea of improvisation has a close association with the arts. In music, especially, improvisation has had a key role not only in jazz music, but as an essential skill in the classical compser's repertoire. It is interesting to note that famous classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were famous for their improvisatory brilliance, and this ability had a profound influence on their compositions. . . "

"A balanced perspective on improvisation in learning would lead to students, teachers and educational institutions becoming a source of knowledge and skill, in addition to being a distribution centre for knowledge and skill (I've artificially reduced learning to knowledge and skill here). If the curriculum itself was also viewed as a source of improvisation then it naturally become more open to the influence of the people "learning" it. A sense of dialgue would open up and conversation would be highly valued. This would mean that the rhythms, melodies and chords of the curriculum would become the basis for creative expression as well as interpretation."

"Perhaps at least one dimension of schooling should concentrate on oral traditions of learning."(Experience Designer Network | Learned Improvisation)

:: note :: . . . spent a lifetime defending complex understandings of improvisation within the area of education . . . never articulated but must take time to improvise . . . blogging is improvisation . . .

Sunday, April 04, 2004

"ArtisanCam: Imagine being able to watch an artist at work, observing their creations and learning from their skills. ArtisanCam will pilot a series of virtual artists residencies, linking artists and craftspeople working in studios, schools and cultural settings with groups of people in other locations. Websites using images, text, sound, animation, video conferencing and live web casts will link the groups."(Culture Online | Projects)

:: note :: . . . another project is StageWork . . . curious how much is passed on through the virtual world . . . information for sure . . . possible communication . . . but what else? . . . visiting sites gives me insight into their virtual presentations . . . the key is interaction and in many ways we have to be trained for these virtual interactions (at least until a foundation of experience exists) . . . . . . an astute analysis with further links over at Creativity/Machine in Participation, Collaboration, and Play . . .

Saturday, April 03, 2004

:: note :: last night . . . Mad Forest . . . a stellar example of theater at the end of the 20th Century . . . the pinnacle of "total theater" espoused by Craig at the end of the 19th Century . . .
"In The Art of the Theatre, Craig makes this provocative statement:
"When he (the stage-director) interprets the plays of the dramatist by means of his actors, his scene-painters, and his other craftsmen, then he is a craftsman - a master craftsman; when he will have mastered the use of actions, words, line, colour, and rhythm, then he may become an artist. Then we shall no longer need the assistance of the playwright - for our art will then be self-reliant. (148)"(Perspicacity: Edward Gordon Craig & the Modern Theatre of Devising)

. . . yet a playwrite there was and a gifted craftswomen/group at that . . .
". . . Caryl Churchill, the director and a group of student actors from London's Central School went to Romania to work with acting students there and find out more about the events surrounding the fall of Ceausescu. What finally emerged from this process was a play that revealed the dreadful damage done to people's lives by years of repression and the painful difficulties of lasting change."(Caryl Churchill)

. . . last night saw theater rich in texture, light, sound, set, props and action . . . a rich weaving together of a total imagist experience . . . carefully and exquisitely balanced with a Brechtian notation (this is the theater at the end of the 20th Century paying homage to the great directors of the past in its eclectic stylings) . . .

all were servants to the image . . . the image as narrative/metaphor/symbol/memory . . . it was a wonderfully produced piece of work . . . art to consume . . .

albeit there was a designed hierarchy . . . first the placement of the image was directed at a specific sightline . . . no co-incidence that the most important (powerful) audience sat in the "best" seat . . . 20th century theater is dominated by the theater consumer . . .

second there was a hierarchy of knowledge . . . the more pre-knowlege of the historical/socio-economical/cultural story . . . the richer the experience . . . Knowledge is Power . . . it is a post modern language . . .
"Churchill's theatre is not just a question of politics, but a politics of style"(Elaine Aston. Caryl Churchill)
scenes are presented . . . attention is directed to the epic dramaturgy . . . a broken egg & the futility of putting it back together . . . no matter how long and great the effort . . . no matter how much is saved . . . this image points to the end . . . where a wedding celebration has degenerated into a brawl . . . the dance continues into . . . well into the darkest chaos . . .

there is a dark satirical scene between a dog and a vampire . . . illusions/delusions and hints of political satire under extreme regimes . . . the reenactment of the Ceausescus execution . . . the dream . . . the juxtaposition of clear monologues and silence in a constant evocative soundscape . . . the cast function as a precise ensemble meticulously trained . . .

. . .in all these riches let us not forget that theater is communion . . .

Friday, April 02, 2004

"The art historian Michael Fried used the word theatricality to describe this phenomenon of Minimalism, by which he meant to attack it, although theatricality can be taken as an attribute. No longer a passive object on a pedestal or an illusion painted on a canvas on a wall, art now entailed real form in real space, experienced in real time."(NYTimes | ART REVIEW | 'A MINIMAL FUTURE')

:: note :: . . . minimalism . . . as an ism has been pleasing to me . . . the clean, sharp aesthetic has always attracted my eye . . . the bold choices have stirred interest . . . the attack "but is it art?" and the usually following dismissal left me confused . . . the work never needed justification only appreciation . . .

Thursday, April 01, 2004

""(H)is plays have a brilliant theatricality. He is, in fact, an exemplary autodidact, and a very quick study. In the plays, things are never quite what they seem to be. (...) Time plays tricks, as past and present coexist and sometimes brush against each other on the same stage. In many of his plays, there are echoes of his previous writings. The subject matter may shift from moral philosophy to quantum physics, but the voice is that of the author caught in the act of badinage, arguing himself in and out of a quandary." - Mel Gussow, American Theatre (December, 1995)"(Tom Stoppard at the complete review)

:: note :: . . . the literary saloon is a tremendous resource as witnessed with the above Stoppard page . . . and they keep adding all the time . . . there is a reason for linking to Stoppard . . . break a leg to the cast&crew of The Real Inspector Hound . . . thank you for a brilliant performance . . . more to come . . .