Why Canada's new Indigenous Theatre is launching with a heartbreaking play on MMIWG

CBC Arts: Exhibitionists goes behind the scenes of The Unnatural and Accidental Women in our Indigenous Icons season premiere.

CBC Arts: Exhibitionists goes behind the scenes of The Unnatural and Accidental Women in our season premiere

Actors rehearse a dance in The Unnatural and Accidental Women. (CBC Arts)

In the season premiere of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, Amanda Parris heads to Ottawa to celebrate the launch of the Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre. Stream the season premiere now on CBC Gem or on CBC TV Friday September 20th at 11:30pm (12am NT) or Sunday September 22nd at 3:30pm (4pm NT).

This month, The National Arts Centre in Ottawa launched its new Indigenous Theatre department with a festival called Mòshkamo, and CBC Arts: Exhibitionists host Amanda Parris was on location to learn more about what's in store for their first-ever season. The department's 2019-2020 programming is centred around Indigenous women, with nine of the 11 productions written and created by women and the season kicks-off with a courageous play that first premiered 20 years ago. The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements shares the stories of 10 women who were targeted by a serial killer in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Unnatural and Accidental Women opens Indigenous Theatre's inaugral season at the National Arts Centre. (Greg Girard )

The story is based on real events, and put a groundbreaking spotlight on the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada when it first premiered in 2000. Clements' story gives power and agency back to the women who had their lives taken from them. It remains sadly relevant, as Indigenous women and girls continue to be the targets of violence.

"There is a privilege in being artists and being able to speak where the people who have been directly impacted by this actual story didn't have those words," says actor PJ Prudat, who plays Rebecca, a woman searching for her lost mother in the NAC's production.

Amanda learns more from the artists behind the show:

The Unnatural and Accidental Women: Amanda Parris interviews actor PJ Prudat, director Muriel Miguel and Indigenous Theatre's artistic director Kevin Loring 4:48

"When we celebrate and we dance that's medicine. When we weep that's medicine," says Kevin Loring, artistic director of Indigenous Theatre at the NAC. "I think from the Indigenous perspective these stories that we're bringing forward are meant to sort of change the world incrementally or even profoundly. And I think that's what we bring to the table."

The Unnatural and Accidental Women is only the first production in a 2019-2020 season that Indigenous Theatre has lined up that includes the Mòshkamo: Indigenous Arts Rising community festival, Dora Award-winning play Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools and Hot Brown Honey by Australia's The Briefs Factory. "How to support this work is to come," says Loring, "Just come out and see the work. Participate in the public events and see what we're about." 

Kevin Loring on how to support Indigenous theatre

"We're here to celebrate, we're here to lift up our artists and sing to the rafters." - Kevin Loring 1:56

Celebrating Indigenous performing arts

The season premiere of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists is celebrating Indigenous performing arts and highlights many of the performers participating in the launch of Indigenous Theatre at the NAC. With Amanda Parris on location at the National Arts Centre, the episode includes a special sneak-peek clip from season 2 of In The Making with musician Jeremy Dutcher, a personal look at the work of artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and some words of wisdom from the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie. 

Stream the season premiere of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists now on CBC Gem or watch it on CBC TV tonight, Friday September 20th at 11:30pm (12am NT), or Sunday September 22nd at 3:30pm (4pm NT)