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NAC Indigenous Theatre unveils inaugural season

The National Arts Centre's new Indigenous theatre department has unveiled its inaugural season after suffering a funding setback last month. 

'Indigenous theatre is here to stay' despite funding setback, artistic director vows

Kevin Loring, artistic director of the NAC Indigenous Theatre, says the new department will need to scale back its vision after being left out of the federal budget. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The National Arts Centre's new Indigenous theatre department has unveiled its inaugural season after suffering a funding setback last month.

NAC Indigenous Theatre's 2019-20 season will feature work based on, performed or created by Indigenous artists, including collaborations with such big names as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and Juno Award-winning Inuk recording artist Susan Aglukark.

The performances must reflect at least one of the following: an Indigenous playwright, an Indigenous director or an Indigenous co-production.

The season will also shine the spotlight on the work of female artists, with nine of the 11 productions produced by Indigenous women. 

The season kicks off Sept. 11 with a 19-day Indigenous art and community festival featuring artist talks, culinary events and Indigenous arts programming.

Kevin Loring, the department's artistic director, said Indigenous women are the foundation of the community.

"You go into any band office and they're running the showcases. But I also think it's really important with a lot of conversations that we're having on a national level like the issues of murdered and missing women and things like that, that we present our matriarchs on this stage here at the NAC." 

Evalyn Parry, left, and Laakkuluk Williamson will appear in Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, coming to the NAC in January 2020. (Jeremy Mimnagh)

This first season didn't come about without facing some hurdles. 

On World Theatre Day in March, Loring learned his department would receive no funding in the 2019 federal budget. 

The department's $3.5-million request would have supported outreach to Indigenous communities and taking productions to remote communities in the North. 

"We we had a big vision, and now I have to sort of scale that vision back to see what we can do with what we have," Loring said.

Despite the setback, Loring is remaining optimistic. 

"I'm confident that eventually we'll be resourced in the way that we need to be to be a national theatre for Indigenous performing arts," he said. "The Indigenous theatre is here to stay."

Below are the details of the inaugural season: 

The Unnatural and Accidental Women

  • Sept. 11 to 21.
  • Presented in English, featuring Coast Salish.

Là où le sang se mêle / Where the Blood Mixes

  • Sept. 13 to 15 in French.
  • Sept. 16 to 18 in English.
  • In French or English, featuring Nlaka'pamux'stn.

Mokatek and the Missing Star (Mokatek et l'étoile disparue)

  • Sept. 13 to 14.
  • Presented in French, featuring Anishinaabemowin with chants in Abenaki.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

  • Sept. 15.

Susan Aglukark and the NAC Orchestra

  • Sept. 20.

Finding Wolastoq Voice

  • Sept. 21 to23
  • Presented in English, featuring Wolastoqiyik.

Mînowin

  • Sept. 26 to 28.

Unikkaaqtuat

  • Jan. 9 to 12.
  • Featured language: Inuktitut.

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

  • Jan. 22 to Feb. 9.
  • Featured language: Kalaallisut

Inner Elder

  • April 7 to 10.
  • Presented in English, featuring Cree.

Hot Brown Honey

  • May 5 to 9.
  • Presented in English.

With files from Sandra Abma

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