After a week traveling across the country, Nookmis/Aunty Kay and I are both back home in Ontario. The trip was a wonderful success and we were able to experience a lot of incredible firsts together. We will be forever thankful to everyone who contributed towards Nookmis/Aunty Kay's journey. We were literally budgeted down to the last dollar and cent for this huge trip. There was a point just before we flew out West where I was afraid that Nookmis/Aunty Kay would not have enough money for entire week long journey. But somehow, I miraculously scraped together some extra funds by digging deep into my savings and receiving a few last minute donations. I have good reason to believe my late mother/Ogitcheedakwe was watching over both of us from the Spirit World during the entire trip and shifting the universe to ensure we had enough money to go! But it was a bit stressful and nerve-wracking just before we left on the journey, wondering if Nookmis/Aunty Kay would be ok for zhoonya/money.
To everyone reading this blog who donated towards the trip, amounts both large and small, please rest-assured that a special thank you card is still coming. I'm also currently in the process of looking through all of the photographs (over 100 and counting) from the trip and editing together a media disk especially for Nookmis/Aunty Kay that will contain a compilation of all the photos and video clips from the entire epic trip!
Some major donors have already reached out to let me know that some of you are still have problems accessing and viewing the private videos posted to my YouTube page. The way around this problem is to subscribe to my YouTube channel by accepting my personal invitation which many of you should have already received via email or text message. If you have not received an invitation, please let me know. A friendly reminder that this special access for viewing private videos is for major donors only. You will need to accept this invitation to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you wish to view any of my private videos and other links. This might be the main problem for your viewing troubles and why many of you are having difficulty viewing the private videos.
Please take the time to reach out to Nookmis/Aunty Kay back at her home on the rez by giving her a phone call or visiting her in-person to talk with her about the entire experience of the trip. It was truly a special trip for her and she has many amazing stories to share with all of you!
Stay tuned everyone!!!
Jeremy AKA Jer Bear
After days of being on the road, literally planes, trains and automobiles, we have finally arrived in Vancouver! Traversing across the West through the mountains, valleys, canyons, fields and woodlands has been extraordinary. When I get some more time I will be posting some more photos on this blog. Please view the slideshow at the bottom of this blog entry.
The VIA Rail trip between Jasper and Prince Rupert was an experience, with many highlights and challenges too. Over the course of our 2 day journey on the train we saw a couple of wild bears, eagles, a giant moose, beavers, mountain ranges, glacial rivers, streams, landscapes, etc! It was really overwhelming to try to take all that beauty all in over the course of 2 days! Major delays on the railway line that we were sharing with long freight trains caused us to be up to 2-4 hours late arriving at our final destinations each night. At a certain point we just had to laugh it off and take it as a travel experience that we could not control. When we flipped the switch and just surrendered to things that were out of our control then it quickly became less stressful and more enjoyable for the both of us. One can never predict how national travel arrangements are going to work out, even when you try to plan ahead. So far along the journey Kay and I have met an eclectic and interesting group of strangers from all walks of life who have each shared their unique stories and backgrounds with us. It has and continues to be such a huge learning experience meeting new people and visiting new places across our vast land we call Mother Earth. Now that we in the traditional territory of the West Coast Peoples we feel a different kind of energy out here compared to back home and being so close to the vast greatness of the Pacific Ocean and BC interior.
More private video links have been shared with major donors and conributors. So if you're one of those folks who contributed over $100 towards Kay's trip and still have not received links to those very special videos of Kay and I, please reach out to me through this website or email. Chi-Miigwetch!
Jeremy & Kay Kick
Apologies for being late with the first blog posting of the epic trip out West that my nookmis and I have undertaken this month. The journey to make it out here with my 86 year-old nookmis has been both rewarding and exhausting. I know this trip is changing both of our lives immensely and I am not taking for granted one minute of it. That being said, the journey through The Rocky Mountains has had it set of challenges. The first being access to a decent wifi/internet signal in order to make these postings to my online blog. There have already been many instances where we have not had access a cellular signal or internet for many hours at a time. By the time we check-in to our accommodations are a long day we are usually exhausted and simply unable to find time to make many of these postings. It's something that I kind of did not anticipate with how busy we would be on the road. I was hoping I would have boundless amounts of endless energy to post every single day but that has not been possible so far due to no access to internet and cellular. The Rocky Mountains are the main sources of blocking our access to cell and internet and falling off the grid. And maybe that's a good thing for us to be able to disconnect and just be able to be present in the whole experience together. My sincerest apologies as I know I had promised all the major donors to Kay's GoFundMe Campaign journey that they would be getting daily blog postings of our trip. For the time I being I will be making my best effort to post photos and tiny blurbs of our experiences so far which have been totally amazing! Kay has been tackled a lot of hidden fears by going on this trip including her fear of heights, airplanes, etc. I have been so inspired by her bravery every day and continue to be amazed by her spontaneity and zest for life and new experiences. Our journey so far has taken us through the Rocky Mountains, and through regions of the Highway of Tears. We continue to make offerings of sema/tobacco wherever we go and know that every day is a blessing to be alive and able to share in this whole experience together!
I am hoping tomorrow that I will be able to finally find some valuable time to send off some private YouTube links of a few videos of me and Kay on our journey together including the moment we took off in the plane on the tarmac of the Pearson International Airport and the moment we ascended up a mountain inside the Jasper SkyTram!
Pictured Above: Jeremy and Kay have dinner at the Banff Centre for the Arts, an extraordinary arts centre located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains where Jeremy used to dance and perform when he was in his early 20s with Chinook Winds Aboriginal Arts Professional Dance Program.
Pictured Above: Jeremy and Kay hold hands as they take off on the airplane from Toronto to out West on day 1 of their trip. Special donors/contributors to Kay's trip receive private video access to this moment on our trip. We hope you enjoy the video clip!
If you were one of the few people who donated to Kay Kick's GoFundMe Campaign for her upcoming trip to BC then you've found the right place. As promised, donors who made generous contributions of $100 or more will be receiving special access to videos posted directly to this blog. Being a generous person does have it's rewards! Chi-miigwetch to all of you for helping make this trip become a reality for Kay. It will definitely be a trip to remember for the rest of her life!!
As a special sneak peak, please watch the short video clip below of Kay and Jeremy dancing swing together! In the background you can also hear Vicky/Ogitcheedakwe laughing and commenting on our special dance moves. We definitely feel her beautiful spirit around us all the time and know that her presence is watching over us, especially her mother Kay, from the Spirit World.
Stay tuned for the first official trip video to be posted next week on Thursday, July 18th as Kay and Jeremy embark on this amazing journey together!
Jeremy AKA Jer Bear
As usual, I've been neglecting my blog for quite some time. But I am back online with some fantastic news to share. A few weeks ago, I made the long journey of flying across the Atlantic Ocean to start rehearsals with Sheffield Theatre in the UK.
I am now coming towards the end of week 2 of rehearsals for 'ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST'. Visit my website homepage for more information about the production. It's been approximately 4-5 years since I've been back to the UK to perform. Working with this new cast of British actors has been great. They're all a very generous and talented group of people. And I will be extremely proud to make my Sheffield Theatre debut on their wonderful Crucible thrust stage later this June and share the story of Chief Bromden in 'ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST' with British theatre audiences. It's going to be a thrilling production!
That being said, it's been a very interesting experience revisiting the character of Chief Bromden after 4 years. Not too many actors can say they've performed the same character in the same play with various different theatre companies/productions all over the world. But I have been thinking a lot about the character these past few weeks of rehearsals in the UK. At this point in time I am feeling very strongly that this will probably be the last and final time I perform this character onstage. It will be sad to finally let go and retire a character that I have grown to love so very much. I hold the role very dear to my heart as an Indigenous storyteller because it provides me a rich opportunity to reinterpret an iconic character from a classic story that a lot of people already know and hopefully change their views and perceptions about what it means to be an Indigenous Person from North America. But the role of Chief Bromden does ask a lot of me as a performer. I have to be willing and open to going to some very heavy and dark emotional places, night after night, with Bromden's journey in the play. It can also be painful to go through it as well because a lot of his story connects to my own First Nation Peoples history in North America/Turtle Island of genocide, assimilation and colonization. Not only do I struggle with interpreting a character that was written through a White/Eurocentric gaze, the role can also be emotionally demanding because I am working so hard not to fall into the trap of portraying a stereotypical and one-dimensional character. Depending on how this play is directed and the actor portraying Bromden, there is the danger of the play being shallow and Bromden becoming an awful stereotype and caricature. But I am trying my hardest to bring a new depth and understanding to the character with the help of my director. Truth be told, it never has been easy with this play in particular, no matter how many times I've done it in the past.
Having had the opportunity to perform the character of Chief Bromden in three very different stage productions all around the world (and be paid for it!) has been a great honor and privilege as an actor. But I think it is now finally time to put Chief Bromden to rest after this current stage production wraps on June 23rd, so to speak. Unless a NYC Broadway production opportunity arises then maybe (and that's a big maybe) I would reconsider doing the role again. Who knows what the future holds?!
Yesterday, we filmed some promotional materials for the show which will include photos and a short trailer. I can't wait to see the final trailer and will be sure to share it on this blog for all to see. Be sure to keep checking back to the website for future updates....
To give you a sneak peak of the upcoming promo trailer for Sheffield Theatre's production of 'ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST' take a look below!
After only 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsals we officially opened the stage production of 'ONLY DRUNKS AND CHILDREN TELL THE TRUTH' at Magnus Theatre way up in northern Ontario in Thunder Bay. Playwright Drew Hayden Taylor was also in the audience for last night's Opening Night performance. A special chi-miigwetch to Drew for making the journey up to Thunder Bay to see the show!
It's been a crazy ride coming here to live and work for 5 weeks but so rewarding in terms of meeting new people within the theatre community and reconnecting with colleagues and peers. That being said, the stage production runs until November 11th so I encourage folks to purchase their tickets at magnustheatre.com/shows/only-drunks-children-tell-the-truth/#.WfS2HoYpDyU
The media also came to visit us a few days ago during our previews which included APTN National News and TBT Thunder Bay local news. They each broadcast a segment on the show and interviewed the director Thom Currie along with the cast which includes Samantha Brown, Julie Lumsden, Dillan Chiblow and myself. I've shared each of the video news segment links below where you can get a special sneak peak of the show. Enjoy the segments and feel free to share with anyone on social media you know who might be interested in hearing more about this stage current production.
FYI: The first video, TBT local news segment, begins at the 12:45 minute mark.
The second video, APTN National News segment, begins immediately after pressing play.
For the month of July I will be participating as an actor in Daniel David Moses's adaptation of the late Basil Johnston's book/memoir 'Crazy Dave'. The play adaptation is titled 'Crazy Dave Goes To Town' and will be directed by Colin Taylor. The actors performing in the play will be myself, Michelle Thrush, Cathy Elliott, Brandon Oakes and Garrett Smith.
The play hits home a very personal level because of the simple fact that the entire story centers on the actual First Nation community and people in which I grew up, Neyaashiinigmiing (formerly known as Cape Croker Reserve).
My grandmother Kay personally knew of the man many people on the rez used to call "Crazy Dave" and has her own personal connection through stories of her own about him. Many of the actual events written in Basil's book which transpired in my community of Neyaashiinigmiing, including in the small town of Wiarton located 30 minutes away from the rez, will be featured in the play. That being said, I am quite excited to delve into this 4-week workshop and bring life to the many colourful characters in the story that are based on actual people from my community, a few whom I actually knew!
A public staged reading will be performed on Sunday, July 30th at the Aki Studio Theatre in the Artscape Daniels Spectrum Building located in downtown Toronto in the heart of Regent Park. Mark the performance date down in your calendars!! It's a 1 night only event. Later in 2018, the play will be fully produced as part of Native Earth Performing Arts 2017/18 season.
I encourage you to continue visiting this blog section of my website for further developments including my experience in rehearsals as well as the progress of bringing this funny play to life onstage with a very talented group of artists and storytellers!
Won't you come along on this creative journey with me?
I have officially begun the final week for the stage production of OF MICE AND MEN with the Maples Repertory Theatre here in Missouri. It's been a rewarding and challenging 5 weeks. The adjustment of being away from friends and family back home, working in a peculiar small town in the middle of America and the many performances that I already have under my belt with performing in this show has allowed me to reflect on this wonderful and bizarre experience of making live theatre and telling stories. I use the metaphor of jumping on a freight train or running a marathon to best describe was it feels like to perform an entire show like this one for a live audience. As an actor I need to be ready to jump on the train otherwise I will be left in the dust. The amount of focus, commitment and energy, both physically and emotionally, it takes to perform as Lennie Small for every show can be exhausting. There are some days where I don't know if I'll even have the energy to get through a show because of the demands it places on me as an actor. But somehow once I jump on that train I am magically carried along for the journey and come out the other side feeling both exhausted and elated for having shared the experience with a live audience. That being said the audiences have been varied and small but the doesn't mean that I perform each show with same amount of dedication and energy as the rest of them. Having been performing the show for the past few weeks I feel as through I am now building back my stamina as a performer, which is a muscle you can only build from doing theatre regularly. Some of the shows are now getting a little easier to do where I don't feel so drained and exhausted after I take my final bow. That being said, I am still entering my final week of performances and it'll be a sad time to release and let go of the character of Lennie Small. I have undoubtedly grown very attached to the character and his emotional journey. I have also grown so much as an actor in playing him onstage. The gift of being able to stretch my muscles and expand my craft as a storyteller has been, and continues to be, an amazing and extraordinary experience. Chi-Miigwetch/Thank you very much to all those theatre patrons who have made time in their busy lives to come see and experience OF MICE AND MEN onstage at the Royal Theatre. I truly believe I am doing some of the best work of my career with this show and regardless of how many people see it I know in my heart that I will be leaving this show with a great amount of gratitude and joy from having been given the opportunity to be part of such an amazing story and production.
Sadly, I've been neglecting this blog for a while now. It's now been almost 4 weeks since I first arrived in Macon, Missouri earlier in June to begin the journey with OF MICE AND MEN. The rehearsals definitely putting me through the wringer, both physically and emotionally. I really don't do anything half-assed. I totally commit to the storytelling and bringing life to a character. Lennie Small was no exception. From day one I worked with the text and then began to create him through physical gestures and posture, voice and then deep child-like emotional core and spirit. Once I discovered who Lennie Small actually was to those around him then the play really started to reveal itself to me. It was a powerful yet emotionally exhausting experience. Ontop of everything else with daily rehearsals inside an old, hot and muggy rehearsal hall I was doing graduate research for my Masters Degree and working hard at getting my lines memorized. It's astonishing that we created this show with technically only 10 days of rehearsals. Pretty amazing if you ask me. The show officially opened this past Friday here in Macon, Missouri and it was pretty well-received by the local theatre-goers and community. My only concern and hope is that people don't shy away from the play because of its heavy subject matter. We definitely need more butts in the seats and hopefully a strong word-of-mouth will spread about the show. OF MICE AND MEN is not a musical so it asks something totally different from its audience. The play asks you to think deeply about issues concerning your own life, friendships, community, poverty, the dream, the hope, etc. With musicals it can often times be so easy for audiences to escape within the feel-good and uplifting music. I have nothing against musicals, they are just something totally different from a classic dramatic play like OF MICE AND MEN. Audience members have been very warm and receptive to the show, some even contacting me directly via my website to express how much the show has meant to them. I am deeply humbled and honored by the feedback and comments.
Pictured Above: The set design for OF MICE AND MEN with the Maples Repertory Theatre.
When I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana this past January to rehearse and perform in the stage production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with the Cardinal Stage Company who knew what an amazing impact I would be making on students, especially a young First Nation girl's life.
I have always said that if I can touch at least one young person through my work and storytelling then my job is done. One student in particular, a local First Nation student named Ana Stahlman, attended a special school matinee performance of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with her high school class and was so moved by the show that it inspired her to start dreaming about the possibilities of pursuing a performing arts career. Having grown up on the reservation for most of her life Ana expressed that opportunities like this to see live theatre were very rare. Up until she saw this particular stage production she personally shared with the Cardinal Stage Company that she had never before seen a First Nation actor perform onstage and was deeply moved by the whole experience. Seeing ourselves reflected onstage through various characters can be such a powerful experience, especially for our First Nation youth who need the positive reinforcement of having role models in their lives. It's amazing when you hear about defining moments like Ana Stahlman's, especially when you know you've played a pivotal part in it. I am humbled and grateful to know that I made a lasting impact in her life and hopefully inspired her to purse theatre.
Be sure to watch the special video below that was produced by the Cardinal Stage Company about the powerful impact that their special 'Cardinal for Kids' initiative has had on the lives of children, youth and families who are able to experience the many amazing theatre productions they produce each year in Bloominton, Indiana.
Theatre arts definitely has the power to change lives! Miigwetch to the Cardinal Stage Company for continuing to inspire our youth and future storytellers!