Who Are We Now? Essays from a New World – Simone A. Medina Polo

Who Are We Now? Essays From A New World is an initiative from Theatre Alberta that brings you editorial perspectives from a variety of Albertan artists about the rapidly changing world we live and work in. We hope you’ll find them useful as you process your own evolving reality.


it is not just to have a mestizo trans woman in power – Simone A. Medina Polo | January 27, 2021

At the beginning of October 2020, I took on the role of Festival Producer for the Nextfest Arts Company. Though it is most certainly exciting and a significant personal achievement, it is not without a context that intersects at the central question for this essay. In light of the resurgence of Black Lives Matter for anyone who is not a Black person, many organizations across this colonial state scrambled to assure themselves that this political moment did not destabilize their status quo – quite successfully so, I will add. For instance, MacEwan University made a textbook Black Lives Matter statement across social media without addressing the backlash from students and alumni who beg to differ out their corroborated lived experiences through the academic system (MacEwan University, 2020; CBC, 2021) – it is my observation that there have been proactive efforts by various individuals and collectives for more than four years, and all of these instances have been dismissed by administrators upholding the Ivory Tower and its crony processes (Paxsi, 2020; CBC, 2021).

In some instances, administrators in the arts (all of them women, interestingly enough) stepped down from their roles in order to make space for something different…

By and large, the situation in the arts and culture is not much different. In October 2020, the Art Gallery of Alberta experienced a moment of public embarrassment upon realizing that the curated exhibition of contemporary works for its biennial gala has not included a single Black artist in the 24 years of its production (Cummings, 2020). The AGA is not alone in this as the Canadian Human Rights Museum was also subject to a notable controversy surrounding extensive accounts of systematic racism and anti-2SLGBTQ+ attitudes by the administration (Pauls, 2020). In some instances, administrators in the arts (all of them women, interestingly enough) stepped down from their roles in order to make space for something different – for instance, in Edmonton, the former Artistic Producers for Azimuth Theatre decided to step down to make room for Sue Goberdhan and Morgan Yamada to step in. It is in this context that my mentor Maggie Barton Braid announced her departure from the Festival Producer role at Nextfest to make room for someone in these disenfranchised communities to step into a leadership role. And well, here I am.

My role at Nextfest is symptomatic of some fundamental issues that extend well-beyond this one organization and the arts – who is in a position of leadership and power is just a symptom of a more systematic root of causes; and treating the symptom alone will not resolve any of the deeply ingrained restlessness that characterizes the present time under capitalism, its (neo)colonial exploits and the co-optation of the lived oppressions that are profited upon every step of the way.

From a decolonial perspective, non-profits cannot be decolonized much like academia cannot be decolonized, or the colonial State apparatus, or the police and armed forces, or the RCMP.

Non-profit is an industrial complex (Rodríguez, 2016). This is perhaps most apparent in the non-profit industrial complex that concerns the well-being of those struggling with dispossession from a home, but it is nevertheless the case in the arts as they enter in conjunction with government funding bodies and corporate sponsorships – some of these latter of which are more openly implicated in the facilitation of exploitation, whereas the former like to pretend that the arms-length strategy assures anyone that funding is not compromised by a political hegemony. From a decolonial perspective, non-profits cannot be decolonized much like academia cannot be decolonized, or the colonial State apparatus, or the police and armed forces, or the RCMP. When looked at with sincerity and honesty, my current leadership role entails a certain degree of covering my hands in blood.

This is why I stress that it is not just a mestizo trans woman in power that will resolve the fundamental tension which we experience in various partial moments; and in these partialities, we mistake the symptom for the root of it all. And frankly, with an entire world slipping away from us in this perverse everydayness, I do not wish to partake on the gesture of disavowal that would try to set aside the implications of myself as an actor in these systems.

I am sure that white folks can afford a certain naivety around these systematic circumstances, and those who seem to know better prefer to hide behind those semblances through disavowal – one enjoys through the institution where and when one acts as if there is nothing to be acknowledged (Ahmed, 2012, 1-3; Fanon, 2008, 120-129; Zupančič, 2017, 54). As someone attuned to psychoanalytic theory and practice, I think Slavoj Žižek’s Lacanian theory of ideology comprehends this well:

“…fantasy is a means for an ideology to take its own failure into account in advance… The function of ideological fantasy is to mask this inconsistency, the fact that ‘Society doesn’t exist’, and thus to compensate us for the failed identification…” (Žižek, 2008, 142).

“…the principal illusion of the Enlightenment consists in the idea that we can preserve a simple distance from the external ‘machine’ of social customs, and thus keep the space of our inner reflection spotless, unblemished by the externality of customs.” (Žižek, 2008, 88).

The on-going disavowal of capitalism and its thorough assortment of intersectional exploits is quite common in the arts, as the capital industrialization of the arts tries to patch over any fundamental restlessness in order to smoothen the surfaces for capital flows and processes – we do this with extractivist dissections of Indigeneity and with neoliberal band-aids of representation of marginalized communities à la #GirlPower as if it were the material sustenance of daily bread (Klein and Simpson, 2013; Alvarado, 2018, 10-12; Menon, 2015, 1-24). And when these processes breakdown into a critical point, we see the aggressive fascist turnover – like the one we have seen since 2016 leading up to the Storming of the Capitol in early-2021; and we, in Canada, don’t get to distance ourselves from the U.S. as this colonial state is only lagging behind in the exact same process the U.S. is caught up in – as it doubles down on the claim that there is such a thing as civil, cohesive society that is in decadence and it must be protected from decadence (Zupančič, 2017, 25 and 31; Reich, 1970, 128; Fanon, 2008, 89-90). This is an active sacrifice of life which is not for the sake of anything other than the spirit of sacrifice itself as it gets at its perverse, accumulated surplus-enjoyment:

For Fascist ideology, the point is not the instrumental value of the sacrifice, it is the very form of sacrifice itself, ‘the spirit of sacrifice’, which is the cure against the liberal-decadent disease. It is also clear why Fascism was so terrified of psychoanalysis: psychoanalysis enables us to locate an obscene enjoyment at work in this formal act of sacrifice. (Žižek, 2008, 90).

I cannot afford that same naivety or disavowal over the very predicaments that have traumatized me and many others for centuries, and this on-going deferral of judgment defers a world that is able to sustain life into the cancellation of the future altogether (Fisher, 2012, 16; Žižek, 2008, 73). Institutionally, whether we are in the university or the non-profit, we are told that change takes time and that we should reserve our judgment as if to pretend that the issues are hand are ultimately undecidable and untimely – as if we had any time left for anyone to buy into this idle pretext. The question is not just combating the macropolitical and overt forms of fascism, but also to combat the micropolitical fascism that normalize themselves into our everyday way of being, not just materially but culturally too (Deleuze & Guattari, 2005, 214 and 215). The clock is ticking, the world is dissolving, but hey, at least brunch is back when COVID-19 clears up.

*drinks the hemlock* (Plato, 1993, 78 and 79)


Simone A Medina Polo headshot


Simone A. Medina Polo is a philosopher, interdisciplinary artist, and community organizer based out of Amiskwaciwâskahikan in Treaty 6 territory. Informed by her experience as an immigrant mestizo trans woman, her work in philosophy has centred around theories and practices of emancipation which translate over to her music as pseudo-antigone and in her role in many diverse communities.


 

References and Citations

Ahmed, Sara. (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. London: Duke University Press. Retrieved January 7, 2020. 

Alvarado, Raisa Fernanda. (2018). “Girl of Color-Power: Resisting the Neoliberal Girl Power Agent.” Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1421. Retrieved January 7, 2020. 

Cummings, Madeleine. (October 7, 2020). “Art Gallery of Alberta confronts history of never including Black artists in Biennial exhibition” in CBC News. Retrieved January 7, 2020. 

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. (2005). A Thousand Plateaus: Schizophrenia and Capitalism.
Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Fanon, Frantz. (2008). Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press.

Fisher, Mark. (Fall 2012). “What is Hauntology?” in Film Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 1. pp 16-24. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Klein, Naomi and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (March 6, 2013). “Dancing the World into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson” in YES! Magazine. Retrieved January 7, 2020. 

MacEwan University [Facebook post; photo included]. (June 2, 2020). “At MacEwan University, we welcome everyone. We respect human rights, celebrate diversity and embrace equity and inclusion. We build human rights champions who influence our community both within and beyond the university’s walls. These last few days have been an unfortunate reminder of the reality racial discrimination plays in our lives. It is important that we support our community members and maintain a commitment to address racial discrimination in all its forms. We stand with those in peaceful protest as they shine a light on discrimination, hate and the need for change. There is no place for racism, discrimination or hate in our society or our communities. MacEwan promotes diversity and inclusion and works to ensure our campus is safe, and our staff and students are supported. We continue this important work every day.”  Retrieved January 7, 2021. 

MacEwan University students accuse administrators of failing to take action on racism” in CBC News. Retrieved January 16, 2020

Menon, Madhavi. (2015). Indifference to Difference: On Queer Universalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Pauls, Karen. (August 5, 2020). “’Pervasive and systemic’ racism at Canadian Museum for Human Rights, report says” in CBC News. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Paxsi. (@listentowarawara). (December 6, 2020). “Accountability in MacEwan Music.” [Instagram IGTV video posts in two parts]. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
Pt. 1: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CImipM5gF5Z/
Pt. 2: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CImmXMYg28D/

Plato. (1993). Phaedo. Trans. David Gallop. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reich, Wilhelm. (1970). The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Trans. Vincent R. Carfagno. U.S.: Simon and Schuster.

Rodríguez, Dylan. (Spring 2016). “The Political Logic of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex” in The Scholar & Feminist Online, Issue 12.2. Retrieved January 7, 2020. 

Žižek, Slavoj. (2008). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.

Zupančič, Alenka. (2017). What Is Sex? Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Scholarship (Alberta): The Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction (LEAD) Program

 

The Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction (LEAD) Program is now accepting applications from students eager to make a difference in their communities.

The new program is supporting students who are working to reduce gender discrimination in their communities or who are studying in fields where their gender is traditionally under-represented. Each successful student will receive $2,500.

The scholarship program consists of two funding streams: the previously announced Women in STEM Award stream, which is open to women under 30 years of age pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and the Persons Case Scholarship stream, for anyone pursuing studies to advance gender equality.

“More than 100 years ago, women were critical in the building of Alberta – shaping its society and economy. The LEAD Program will assist women and gender-diverse Albertans to pursue fulfilling careers that help promote gender equality and change Alberta for the better. It is especially important at this time to support students in pursuing a broad range of careers as we work toward Alberta’s economic recovery.” ~ Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

 

“The Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction scholarship supports students and empowers them to build the skills they need to find success in their chosen career. By providing more opportunities for under-represented Albertans to apply their talents in a wide range of pursuits – from science, technology and trades to the arts – we are helping to build the workforce of the future.” ~ Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education


The Women in STEM award was announced in September 2020. Consolidating the funding with the Persons Case under one program streamlines the application process for students and reduces red tape.

The first intake deadline for the scholarship is Feb. 21. Those who are interested in applying can visit the program website to find the scholarship criteria and application information.

Quick facts

  • Total funding for the program is $225,000.
  • Up to 40 students will receive $2,500 each in the Persons Case Scholarship stream.
  • Up to 50 students will receive $2,500 each in the Women in STEM stream.

Related information

LEAD Program


Le programme LEAD (Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction) accepte désormais les candidatures d’étudiants désireux de faire une différence dans leur communauté.

Le nouveau programme appuie les étudiants qui s’efforcent de réduire la discrimination sexuelle dans leur communauté ou qui étudient dans des domaines où leur sexe est traditionnellement sous-représenté. Chaque étudiant accepté recevra 2 500 dollars.

Le programme de bourses comprend deux volets de financement : le volet « Women in STEM Award », annoncé précédemment et destiné aux femmes de moins de 30 ans qui poursuivent des études en sciences, technologie, ingénierie et mathématiques, et le volet « Persons Case », pour les personnes qui poursuivent des études liées à l’avancement de l’égalité des sexes.

« Il y a plus d’un siècle, les femmes ont joué un rôle essentiel dans l’édification de l’Alberta en façonnant sa société et son économie. Le programme LEAD aidera les femmes et les Albertaines et Albertains de tous les sexes à mener des carrières enrichissantes qui contribueront à la promotion de l’égalité des sexes et à l’amélioration de l’Alberta. Il est particulièrement important en ce moment d’aider les étudiants à poursuivre un vaste éventail de carrières, alors que nous travaillons à la reprise économique de l’Alberta. » ~ Leela Sharon Aheer, ministre de la Culture, du Multiculturalisme et de la Condition féminine

« La bourse “Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction” appuie les étudiants et leur permet de développer les compétences dont ils ont besoin pour réussir dans la carrière qu’ils ont choisie. En offrant aux Albertaines et Albertains sous-représentés davantage de possibilités d’appliquer leurs talents dans un vaste éventail de domaines, allant des sciences, de la technologie et des métiers aux arts, nous contribuons à constituer la main-d’œuvre de demain. » ~ Demetrios Nicolaides, ministre de l’Enseignement postsecondaire


La bourse « Women in STEM » a été annoncée en septembre 2020. En consolidant cette bourse et le volet « Persons Case » au sein d’un même programme, nous rationalisons le processus de mise en candidature des étudiants et réduisons les formalités administratives.

La première date limite de réception des demandes est fixée au 21 février 2021. Les personnes intéressées peuvent consulter le site Web du programme (en anglais seulement) pour connaître les critères d’attribution des bourses et obtenir des renseignements sur la procédure de demande.

En bref

  • Le financement total offert dans le cadre de ce programme est de 225 000 dollars.
  • Quarante étudiants seront admissibles à un montant de 2 500 dollars dans le cadre du volet « Persons Case ».
  • Cinquante étudiants pourront recevoir 2 500 dollars dans le cadre du volet « Women in STEM ».

Renseignements connexes

Site Web du programme (en anglais seulement)

Workshop (Online): Voice Over Classes for All Levels – VoiceSpot

VoiceSpot Presents…
Online Voice Over Classes for All Levels

Celebrating 25 years in support of your voice over community, VoiceSpot offers classes for everyone from raw beginners to those who have plenty of experience and wish to extend their skills and brush up on the basics.

If you’re just starting out in voice over, why not start with our Level 1 class for a great introduction to the industry?

Level 1 – The Voice Over Adventure with Scott Roberts
Saturdays and Sundays, January 23rd to February 6th
Start Time: 12pm Mountain time
www.voicespotwcs.com

For those who have experience, you can brush up on your existing voice over skills and take the next logical step in your voice over career with Level 2, open to those who have taken our Level 1 class OR those who have a performance background.

Level 2 – Performance for Microphone with Doug de Nance
Tuesdays and Thursdays, February 9th to 25th
Start Time: 6pm Mountain time
www.voicespotwcs.com

Interested in extending your skillset into Audiobooks? We have classes to teach you the basics of audiobook narration, as well as the business side of that industry. Our first full class starts in April, but why not get a taster of it before then with one of our Audiobook Performance Workouts?

Audiobooks Performance Workout with Dawn Harvey
Friday February 19th
Start time: 5pm Mountain time
www.voicespotwcs.com

For other classes, including further Level 1s and 2s, Levels 3 and 4, Audiobooks and Voice Gyms, see our full Class Schedule.

Come have some fun!

——

VoiceSpot – Since 1996
“25 Years – Building Your Voice Over Community”
(403) 277-6767 Calgary
(780) 628-2930 Edmonton
[email protected]
www.voicespotwcs.com
Be Yourself, Be Real, Be Extraordinary!

Workshop (Online): Finding Your LGBTQ+ Community in Rural Alberta – Alberta Parenting For The Future Association

Picture of Luc Tellier. Text: Finding Your LGBTQ+ Community in Rural Alberta. January 19, 7:30pm. Free registration via Eventbrite

For teens who self-identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in grades 9 – 12.

Growing up in a small town is a challenging event, but it is a survivable one. And there is strength in numbers, even when those numbers are scattered across the prairies. Join Luc Tellier for a free virtual conversation about growing up as a LGBTQIA+ teen in rural Alberta.

The event is totally free to attend, but advance registration is required through this link: www.eventbrite.ca

About Luc Tellier

Luc is a theatre actor, director, educator, and LGBTQ+ community activist. Having grown up in rural Alberta as a queer teen, Luc has an unbridled passion for the promotion of LGBTQ+ visibility, inclusivity, and community for youth. Luc recently taught at the Alberta Provincial GSA Conference, exploring how theatre can be used to animate difficult conversations in the classroom. Additionally, Luc is the program coordinator for YouthRiot YEG (a playwriting program for queer teens), and has provided Queer dramaturgy and outreach for productions at MacEwan University’s Theatre Arts Program, Fort Edmonton Park’s Capitol Theatre, and the Citadel Theatre Young Acting Company. As an actor, Luc has been seen in over 25 professional productions across western Canada, and recently received the Lieutenant Governor Award for Emerging Artist and a Sterling Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre For Young Audiences.

 

Workshop (Online): Inner and Interpersonal Wellness on Set and Stage

Inner and Interperonsal Wellness on Set and Stage - facilitated by Emma Chahal and Megan Gilron

Sunday February 21, 2021
10am-1pm PST/11am-2pm MST/ 1pm-4pm EST
Platform: Digital workshop
Eventbrite link: www.eventbrite.com
Workshop access information will be sent out 24hrs. prior to workshop.

This workshop will provide practical, experiential information about navigating wellness and self care for professionals working in performance. We will specifically cover self-care and self-regulation in the context of intimacy coordinators and directors, but anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

Using a trauma-informed lens, we will explore: embodiment techniques to soothe the nervous system, holistic strategies for moving through emotions, and how to stay centered during difficult moments. This workshop is an incredibly valuable tool to avoid burnout, promote body/mind wellness in performance spaces, and work sustainably.

 

Opportunity (Calgary): Meet Lunchbox Theatre’s New Artistic Director

Calgary Theatre Artists: Lunchbox Theatre’s new Artistic Director wants to meet you!

Actors, Directors, Designers and Playwrights are invited to email a resume to set up a zoom chat with Bronwyn for the week of January 11-15th to make introductions. These are not auditions and a monologue is not expected.

Please reach out to schedule a meeting at Bronwyn at: [email protected]

Lunchbox Theatre strives to reflect the diversity of our society in our productions and play development activities. We encourage artists of all backgrounds and identities to reach out.

There will be a second call via the Equity e-drive for chats/introductions for the week of Feb 1-5th if those dates work better for you.

Please Note: At this time, Lunchbox Theatre can only consider Alberta artists. Out-of-province artists will not be considered.

Workshop (Alberta): Nurture Your Narrative – A Mental Health Storytelling Workshop

Nurture Your Narrative - promoting collective healing where Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour's lived experiences will be nurtured and validated.

You’re invited to Nurture Your Narrative: A Mental Health Storytelling Workshop.

The Colour Factor’s mission is to decommodify wellness and reclaim traditional ancestral forms of healing by creating brave spaces for BIPoC to connect, create and thrive!

In this workshop, you will learn the powerful tool of owning your truth and sharing your story in a private and intimate setting for ultimate freedom.

As we continue to navigate the changing landscape of our city and globe alike, welcome in a new year with the power of storytelling. We will review different storytelling formats including video, audio, spoken word and performance.

Individually we have struggled, but together we can heal!

Class will be from 5-7pm MST

There will be 4 classes in total, once a week

Agenda

  • January 6 , 2021 – WEEK 1: Introductions
  • January 13, 2021 – WEEK 2: Mind Mapping + Overcoming the fear of storytelling
  • January 20, 2021 – WEEK 3: Workshop + Lab
  • January 27, 2021 – WEEK 4: Wrap-Up

Virtual Screening and Panel to follow

Pay-What-You-Can

Please note this workshop is by donation. If finances are a barrier, please email us to discuss complimentary access.

Questions? Email [email protected]

 

Call for Submissions (Alberta): Writers and Musicians – Typecast Anonymous Productions

Typecast Anonymous Productions logo

Typecast Anonymous Productions is looking for writers and musicians/bands to work on their upcoming theatrical productions. We are accepting applications from all across Alberta for emerging and established artists who want to see their work on stage. Writers that participate will be matched with musicians to create original works that will be showcased in the Fringe Festivals, one act festivals or runs at theatres across Alberta.

All artists will receive compensation for their work (on per show basis) and will be promoted during the show’s run to build their portfolio and experience.

For writers: Please email [email protected] with an artists resume and a sample of work no longer than 10 pages.

For musicians: Please email [email protected] with an artists resume and three original songs, no longer than four minutes each.

There is no deadline for this application as theatre production is always ongoing. There is also no experience required; if you have talent, we want to showcase it!

Call for Submissions (Alberta): The 2021 Distinguished Artist Awards

NOMINATE A DISTINGUISHED ARTIST

Nominate an outstanding Alberta artist for the 2021 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Awards. Nominations are open until February 21, 2021. The awards will take place in Lac la Biche on June 12, 2021.

To prepare for the nomination:

  • Ensure the nominee is a Canadian citizen, lives in Alberta, or has had a significant connection to Alberta over time.
  • Speak to your nominee, let them know you will be nominating them, ask for a current CV and have them complete and sign the Nominee Information Release and Consent Form. When completed, have your nominee return the signed form to you, the nominator. This is one of the required documents you will include with your Distinguished Artist Award Nomination.
  • Write a document of no more than three pages, single spaced, explaining why this nominee merits Alberta’s top recognition for artistic achievement. Include highlights of the nominee’s artistic achievements and/or their contribution to advancing their artistic discipline. If the nominee does not currently reside in Alberta, clearly outline their connection to Alberta and their contribution to growing our province’s arts and culture.
  • Complete all the fields of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award 2021 Nomination.
  • Contact [email protected] with any questions regarding the Distinguished Artist Award 2021 nomination process.

artsawards.ca

Workshop (Online): Voice Over Classes – VoiceSpot

VoiceSpot logo

VoiceSpot Presents…
Online Voice Over Classes for 2021!
www.voicespotwcs.com

We have announced our online classes for the first half of 2021! Open to everyone, wherever you are, as long as you can make the time work for you.

Make sure you sign up soon to take advantage of our special discounted Early Bird rates!

If you’re just starting out in voice over, why not start with our Level 1 class for a great introduction to the industry?

Level 1 – The Voice Over Adventure with Scott Roberts
Saturdays and Sundays, January 9th to 24th
Start Time: 2pm Eastern, 12pm Mountain
https://www.voicespotwcs.com/voicespot/event

Brush up on your voice over skills and take the next logical step in your voice over career with Level 2, open to those who have taken our Level 1 class OR those who have a performance background.

Level 2 – Performance for Microphone with Doug de Nance
Tuesdays and Thursdays, February 9th to 25th
Start Time: 8pm Eastern, 6pm Mountain
https://www.voicespotwcs.com/voicespot/event

For other classes, including further Level 1s and 2s, Levels 3 and 4, Audiobooks and Voice Gyms, see our full Class Schedule (https://www.voicespotwcs.com).

Workshop (Online): The Gardener and the Architect with Meg Braem

Image of Meg Braem

The Gardener and the Architect:
Working from impulse to structure in playwriting with Meg Braem

Two-part workshop:
January 13 & 20 @ 7pm
Members $55
Non-members $75
*Attendance is capped. Only 10 spots available*

REGISTER HERE

Writers are often asked, “are you a gardener or an architect?” The gardener being an artist who plants a handful of seeds and waits to see what germinates while the architect starts from a set of plans and outlines. I believe all creators are both. Artists must generate material through impulse, curiosity, and wonder. This first step can be unruly and uncomfortable for those used to knowing exactly what they are trying to do. Once material has been created, the artist can begin to concentrate on finding a structure that serves the story. It is sometimes helpful to be reminded that it is spelled playwright not a playwrite, in a similar form to shipwright, meaning a builder of plays. Using playwriting to facilitate the integral steps of impulse and building structure, writers of all genres will follow their curiosity and gain tools to best articulate their ideas.

Meg Braem is an Alberta based playwright. Her plays have been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, received the Alberta Literary Award for Drama and have twice won the Alberta Playwriting Competition. Her work has been presented at the University of Alberta, University of Lethbridge, Lunchbox Theatre, The Belfry Theatre, Sage Theatre, Sparrow and Finch Theatre, Theatre Transit, Atomic Vaudeville, and Intrepid Theatre. Most recently Meg premiered Flight Risk at Lunchbox Theatre and her play The Josephine Knot was published by Playwrights Canada Press. Meg is co-author of Amplify: Graphic Narratives of Feminist Resistance (University of Toronto Press, 2019) with Norah Bowman and Dominique Hui. Meg was the Lee Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Alberta from 2017-2020 and is the 2020/21 Canadian Writer-in-Residence in the Calgary Distinguished Writer’s Program at the University of Calgary.

Who Are We Now? Essays from a New World – Jacquelyn Cardinal

Who Are We Now? Essays From A New World is an initiative from Theatre Alberta that brings you editorial perspectives from a variety of Albertan artists about the rapidly changing world we live and work in. We hope you’ll find them useful as you process your own evolving reality.


FROM THE DESK OF AN APOCALYPSE DOULA – Jacquelyn Cardinal | December 15, 2020

One of the clearest varieties of memory I have of my childhood were the nights when Hunter, my younger brother, and I were treated to myth-sharing by our Dad. Rather than reading the usual storybook chosen from our shared collection, he would tell us epic stories from our people, the nêhiyawak, brought to life with shadows cast by his hands on our bedroom walls. These stories almost always starred animals, spirits, and grand challenges met with courage, love, and sacrifice.
 
In a wash of unexpected nostalgia, a favourite of these stories returned to Hunter and me in March of this year as we watched the news of the pandemic unfolding around the world from our shared apartment in downtown Edmonton. On a long walk in the river valley after a particularly difficult news day, we retold in parts the story that we now recognize as one known by many cultures on Turtle Island as a remaking of the world story.
 
The version our Dad shared with us begins after a great flood had covered the earth in a shallow sea, upon which a vast turtle floated. Atop the turtle, a group of animals huddled together, waiting for the waters to recede. Among these animals were a rabbit, an otter, a beaver, a loon, and a muskrat.
 
One day, the Creator came down to the animals and told them that if they wanted new land to live on, they must retrieve some of the earth deep below the water and place it on the turtle’s back. Only then, the Creator said, would new land grow.
 
The hopes were highest for the strongest swimmers like the otter, but as each animal tried and failed, that hope soon turned to despair.
 
After agreeing amongst themselves that they should try, each of the animals took turns to dive down below the water. The hopes were highest for the strongest swimmers like the otter, but as each animal tried and failed, that hope soon turned to despair. Eventually, only the muskrat remained untested, but the other animals told the muskrat not to bother with an attempt himself and that the strong swimmers would keep trying. 
 
During the night, while the other animals slept off the fatigue of a day spent trying to reach the bottom of the sea, the muskrat lay awake on his back, looking at the stars. In his heart, he began to realize what needed to be done. With a splash that woke the other animals from their sleep, the muskrat dived down beneath the water. The other animals called for the muskrat and watched the swirling sea, waiting for him to surface. But as short moments stretched into long ones, they fell into silence.
 
It wasn’t until the sun was halfway across the sky that they saw something bobbing on the water in the distance. When the turtle had gotten close enough to recognize the shape of the muskrat, still and soundless, the other animals jumped into the water to pull the little body onto the turtle’s shell. As they began to mourn the muskrat, arranging the body in the centre of the shell in alignment with the path of the sun, they noticed that one of the muskrat’s paws was shut tight. Gently, the otter opened it and found a small bit of dark mud inside.
 
The animals began to celebrate, their joy mixed with many tears, as they turned the muskrat’s paw to drop the mud on to the turtle’s shell. The land that grew from that small bit of mud, clasped in the paw of the humble muskrat, lies beneath our feet today.
 
“I always wondered how the animals got there in the first place,” I remember saying to Hunter, crunching through the snow and ice that still stuck to the ground. “Did Dad ever tell you that part?”
 
“No, I don’t think so,” Hunter responded. 
 
I couldn’t recall either.

Many Indigenous scholars have said for years that we, as Indigenous peoples, are leading lives in our post-apocalypse. When I had first heard this idea, it immediately resonated, explaining (at least in part) why the myth of the remaking of the world struck a chord so deep within me, even as a kid. The fact that the ways of life that would be recognizable to our ancestors are gone, likely never to return, creates a strange form of grief that is difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t already know it in their blood and bones. 
 
…it’s always there—providing teachings about loss and loneliness that no one wants, but everyone needs.
 
I find this grief to be an omnipresent character in my storytelling. It’s rarely the main character, but it’s always there—providing teachings about loss and loneliness that no one wants, but everyone needs. My sense of duty to sit with this teacher, listen intently, and try to bring those teachings forward in my stories led me to jokingly coin a term that I honestly feel suits me better than playwright: Apocalypse Doula, one who sits in between the old world and the new.
 
As March turned to April, then slowly to May, something about the liminality of the pandemic (a port of call for Apocalypse Doulas such as myself) brought clearly to mind the story of the animals on the back of the turtle. “How did they do it?” I would wonder aloud to Hunter and anyone else who knew the story well, “How did the animals move from losing everything of the old world, that grief, and decide to try and create something new? Why is that part of the story untold?”
 
No one had answers. 
 
Actor in shadowy light facing the front of a stage. Purple and blue starry background.

Hunter Cardinal in Lake of Strangers. Photo by Ryan Parker.

 
So just as we had done when we created our play Lake of the Strangers, Hunter and I began to engage in a process that we call “myth architecture.” An extension of the teachings we’ve gained from our Elders, who have told us that storytellers tell stories for those who need them, myth architecture begins with a question that feels important but is without an answer and challenges us to craft a narrative that provides some sort of response. Often, this looks like “completing,” “expanding,” or “setting up” a pre-existing myth. With Lake of the Strangers, for example, we completed the myth of mista muskwa (The Big Bear) as we tried to answer the question: Why should we heal when there is so much darkness?
 
As we continued to imagine the image of the animals floating on the back of the vast turtle of legend, a concept emerged for the story that we began to work on in earnest this past summer: câpân. When complete, câpân will be the tale of how the animals got to the back of the turtle. Through the lens of a group of teenagers finding their way at the end of the last great ice age on Turtle Island, we will seek to answer the question, “What do we need to begin rebuilding the world once the old one has been swallowed up?”

Like most of us, I know I’m counting down the days until the end of 2020, despite understanding that once we emerge into a new year, we will still be in the process of being forever changed by a world that has ended and has not yet been reborn. 
 
Each and every one of our ancestors endured times such as these, and we will too.
 
Let’s not mince words: this is indeed a deeply sad and frightening time. We are separated from one another, have lost things that may never return in the same way, and we don’t know what the future holds. But, as Marcus Aurelius said during the time of plague during his reign in 165 CE, “All of this has happened before and will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end.” Each and every one of our ancestors endured times such as these, and we will too.
 
Inexperienced as I am, I do believe that any good Apocalypse Doula will say that while we have no choice but to exist in the in-between that is this shared journey through our apocalypse of sorts, we do have the opportunity to reach out for what is old and good so that it may take root and become solid beneath our feet once again. 
 
And it seems that English, though it fails me often, carries this teaching as well, for the origin of the word apocalypse is Greek, meaning “to uncover.” 
 
So may you uncover light, love, and hope until we can see each other once more on the other side.

Jacquelyn_Hunter_headshot


Jacquelyn is a sakāwithiniwak (Woodland Cree) playwright and producer hailing from Sucker Creek Cree First Nation who, in all aspects of her life, seeks to equip communities with the means to support themselves and each other while walking together on a shared path, a sentiment passed down to her through the generations.

 
 

What’s Online (Rosebud): A Rosebud Nativity – Rosebud School of the Arts

Image of a Christmas tree branch with ornaments depiciting nativity scenes.

A Rosebud Nativity

Adapted by David Spinks
Directed by Mark Lewandowski
December 10 to December 19, 2020
Thursdays through Saturdays at 4:30pm
 
A Rosebud Nativity is a modern retelling of medieval cycle plays popular in Europe in the middle ages, featuring a variety of Biblical stories from Creation to the Birth of a Savior. Featuring students in Rosebud School of the Art’s Mentorship Program.
 
The event is free, but we welcome your donations at https://www.rosebudtheatre.com.
 

Auditions (Red Deer): Powwow: Ohcîwin – A Devised Performance – Prime Stock Theatre

Prime Stock Theatre Company Logo

Prime Stock Theatre is seeking a diversely balanced ensemble of 5 actor/creators to devise a compelling site-specific performance based upon the curated exhibit Powwow! based at the Red Deer Museum, and further heritage interpretive theatre inspired by the stories of regional personalities and development.

Treaty Acknowledgement & Company mandate

Prime Stock Theatre works, grows and inspires on land which has been a meeting place for the great storytellers of the Treaty 6 & 7 nations for centuries. This area, and the river that runs through it, is the traditional territory of the Niisitapi (Blackfoot), (including the Siksika, the Piikuni, and the Kainai Peoples), the Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Cree, Saulteaux and Métis peoples. We strive, in the spirit of the treaties, to keep this a place of friendship and trust and promise. It’s a work in progress.

Prime Stock Theatre is an Artist-driven theatre that cultivates and challenges the limits of expression and expectation; dedicated to producing a repertoire that is thematically rich, visually adventurous and intellectually daring.

Ethnocultural mandate or casting statement:

Prime Stock Theatre stands proudly in solidarity with indigenous, black, peoples of colour and diverse orientation who face oppression or disenfranchisement, and sincerely work to respect, champion, and support underrepresented voices in all jobs; we warmly welcome and encourage those who self-identify as coming from underrepresented communities to apply.

Additional information:
Contract Dates: First Day of Rehearsals: January 4, 2021
Tentative Run: February 20-27, 2021
Possible Remount: July/August, 2021

These positions are funded by Canada Summer Jobs and applicants must be under 30 years of age.
Seeking: 5 actor/creators (not gender specific)

Interview / auditions will be conducted online through ZOOM or FaceTime from December 18-20, 2020.

Successful candidates must have access to email and ZOOM for the contract duration.

For AUDITION DETAILS and a scheduled Interview time please contact: [email protected] and upload a copy of your résumé and headshot as a single PDF.

ADDITIONAL ROLES: Stage Manager & Associate Director & Technical Director/Projection Designer (details available upon request).

COVID practice mandate

Due to COVID-19 we are working consciously towards the safety of our artists and our patrons, and are dedicated to creating a safe working environment which explores creative options within healthy constraints or restrictions.

Some creative rehearsals may be conducted online through ZOOM or similar platform.

Resource (Alberta): Pivot Online: A Toolkit for Artists and Non-Profit Organizations

Over the shoulder image of someone working on a computer. Website: alberta.ca/covid19

COVID-19 has changed the way artists, the arts sector, and nonprofit organizations are engaging with Albertans. There are many phenomenal examples and insights for how artists and nonprofit organizations can pivot their work online. Even before the pandemic, technology has been changing the way we do business. The pandemic has continued to highlight why it’s so important we learn and adapt to this new world.

The Pivot Online: A Toolkit for Artists and Nonprofit Organizations is available to help artists and nonprofits work remotely and extend your reach. The toolkit captures and shares the insights from artists and organizations who have pivoted their work online and provides information, resources, and inspirations to help artists and nonprofit organizations pivot some, or all, of their operations online. You can find the toolkit on the Alberta website at alberta.ca.

In addition to the toolkit, Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women will be hosting a series of Pivot Online: A Toolkit for Artists and Nonprofit Organizations webinars for artists, artist organizations and nonprofits, and sector capacity builders. Each webinar will demonstrate specific aspects of the Pivot Online Toolkit and feature peer success stories. The webinars will also be recorded live and posted on YouTube for Albertan’s use.

Webinar dates:

  • December 16, 2020 – 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm – Virtual Organization – Remote Operations (Sector Capacity Builder)
  • January 4, 2021 – 4:00 pm to 5:15 pm – Success in a Digital World – Social Media (Artists)
  • January 6, 2021 – 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm – Virtual Organization – Programs and Services Online (Arts & Non-profit Organizations)

Please go to albertacdu.eventbrite.com to register for one or all of these webinars.