Currently, I am in the beginning of rehearsals with the new play BENT BOY at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre (CIT) in Toronto. The students at CIT have been very keen and enthusiastic in the rehearsal room. I get such enjoyment from working and watching our younger First Nation storytellers go through the process of creating live theatre onstage. This whole experience has been consistantly reminding me of the fact that I too was once where they are as students many moons ago. During this first week of rehearsals we have been roughly tracking and blocking our way through the entire play. It can be a tedious process. Character development will eventually grow stronger for each of the students as they begin delving further into their roles. That being said all the other production elements such as lighting, sound, set and costume design are still being discussed with the director and will all play a vital role in bringing the story of BENT BOY to life on the stage this May.
Below is a preliminary costume design sketch for the character of 'Eagleseye', just one of a few characters I will be portraying throughout the course of the play. Because the play was written for a younger audience, actors will be taking on the huge task of playing multiple characters such as animals, villagers, landscape such as stones and trees and even the elements such wind and water, all cleverly staged and dramatized through shadow play, puppetry, movement and dance.
BENT BOY is truly an ensemble piece and I know audiences, especially children, will be so amused and entertained by the moral message of the story as well as the many different characters featured throughout.
I hope to see many of you in our audiences later in this coming May! Feel free to share and continue following the journey of this amazing stage production via the Centre for Indigenous Theatre's website at http://indigenoustheatre.weebly.com/
Pictured Above: Costume design for the character of 'Eagleseye' in the CIT production of BENT BOY.
I have been following the development of the film SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME for quite a while now. I can recall many years ago when I first heard it was being developed through the assistance of the filmmakers lab at the Sundance Institute. Now the film has finally been made and being released!
As a First Nation filmmaker, actor, storyteller and avid film-goer I am always seeking out films that honestly depict and speak to the experience of being a First Nation person in today's contemporary world. So many films throughout the history of filmmaking have failed to represent our stories in a respectful and powerful way and only perpetuate harmful stereotypes and cliches about what it means to be Indigenous and First Nation on Turtle Island. SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME, written and directed by Chloe Zhao, looks promising in breaking the mold by presenting an achingly honest reality about the trauma that native peoples, families and communities deal with, about reconciliation and how First Nations Peoples have been directly affected by colonization, assimilation and genocide.
Be sure to watch the trailer below and visit the film website at http://songsthemovie.com/ to find out where you can watch the film in a city near you. Currently, the film is playing in limited release and select cities in the USA but hopefully with enough interest it will expand to more theatres in more cities across Turtle Island.
With an older brother in jail and living with their single mother on Pine Ridge Reservation, Johnny and his sister Jashuan's lives develop new challenges when their absentee cowboy father suddenly dies. The loss prompts Johnny to strike out for Los Angeles, but would mean leaving behind his beloved sister.
This May I will be performing with the 3rd students at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre (CIT) in their year-end production of BENT BOY written by Herbie Barnes and directed by Ed Roy. The show will be performed at the Aki Studio Theatre in the Artscape Daniels Spectrum building located in the heart of Regent Park in Toronto. This is a kind of a full circle moment for me in a very funny and moving way.
Back in 1998 I was one of the very first students to attend and graduate from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre's full-time conservatory program. At that time CIT was the first and only professional First Nations and Indigenous theatre training program/school of its kind in North America. I was such a newbie to Toronto back then and it was a huge culture shock to move to the city in order to study theatre full-time. But I was very honored to be part of the first foundation year and class of students. Flash-forward nearly 18 years later and I'm now back at CIT performing as a professional actor with our future storytellers and performers in the theatre community who will be newly embarking on their performing arts careers just like a did nearly two decades ago. What a gift to be sharing this moment with these students.
Chi-Miigwetch to my dear friend and colleague, Rose Stella, the current Artistic Director and Principal at CIT for asking me to be part of this year's production. More information about the Centre for Indigenous Theatre's full-time and summer conservatory programs can be found by clicking on the following link: http://indigenoustheatre.weebly.com/
Show dates and times as well as details on how to purchase tickets for BENT BOY will be posted soon so continue staying tuned to this blog and the main page of my website for more announcements as they unfold.
Below is a brief synopsis of the play.
by Herbie Barnes
Bent Boy is a Theatre for Young Audiences play about two youths, one healthy and popular, the other bent and usually in the way. The two are sent from their village to recover a treasure that will insure the future of their community. Together they must overcome obstacles and learn valuable lessons along their way.
Some more exciting news! I've received another honor this year, this time in the field of education, leadership and career achievement. I will be receiving the 2016 Graduate Hall of Fame Award from my secondary school (Class of '98), Peninsula Shores District School (formerly known as Wiarton District High School). I'm thrilled to have been invited to address the graduating class at the 2016 commencement ceremony later this year in June.
I am deeply honored by the recognition from the community and would like to say chi-miigwetch/thank you very much to those members and storytellers of my First Nation community all across Turtle Island who have always helped to encourage and support my artistic endeavors as well as the commencement committee at Peninsula Shores District School for nominating me for this year's honor.
I hope to continue inspiring our future leaders of tomorrow by reminding them of their true potential and unique gifts to help make the world and their communities a more kinder, accepting and loving place to live by remembering to continue to honor and celebrate their unique differences as human beings and caretakers of Mother Earth.
Pictured Above: Peninsula Shores District School (formerly known as Wiarton District High School)
With the new announcement this past Fall 2015 that one of Canada's most elite theatre institutions, the National Arts Centre (NAC), located in our country's capital of Ottawa would be creating the first ever Indigenous Theatre Department beginning sometime in 2019, it was an extraordinary and historical moment for Indigenous Peoples all across Turtle Island. The impact and response this news has been slowly rippling out into Indigenous and First Nations communities all across Turtle Island and so many artists/storytellers from all different backgrounds, nations and disciplines are very excited about the future opportunities that are going to be created as a result of this new Indigenous Theatre Department on such a large national platform.
With every new and enormous undertaking such as this one there will undoubtedly be growing pains and I am personally hoping that the voices of Indigenous communities, knowledge carriers, elders, youth and other important members, not just those in higher leadership positions, will continue to be heard and consulted with as the ball continues rolling with in the development and planning processes of hiring a new Artistic Director and/or directorate for this new Indigenous Theatre Department. I was pleased to hear so many diverse and different voices/perspectives from those invited to the NAC earlier last month to begin the consultation process and next step in how the NAC will go about hiring a new Artistic Director and/or directorate. There's a lot to think about and we as Indigenous storytellers and caretakers of this land need to really make an effort to come together as communities in order to support this new, exciting and very huge undertaking. For those of us in the Indigenous arts community who weren't able to tune into livestream consultation meeting that took place at the National Arts Centre earlier in February I really encourage you all to take some time to watch a recorded version of this historical and important meeting. I've attached the YouTube videos of the entire day meeting below which was recorded and split into morning and afternoon sessions.
Chi-Miigwetch & All My Relations,
Chi-Miigwetch to the town of Bloomington, Indiana and the Cardinal Stage Company for for the wonderful 7 weeks I spent rehearsing and performing in the production ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. The entire experience was a delight and I hope to return someday to work on another theatre production.
I will not soon forget the amazing responses from so many audience members (especially the youth) and those of you who hung around after the shows to meet me, say aanii/hello and personally express how much the show and my performance meant to each of you. Some folks were touched so deeply and emotionally from the show that they couldn't find the words to speak with me afterwards. It's truly those kinds of responses and experiences that always truly touch my heart & spirit and remind me of the reason why I continue to do what I do. I am so deeply humbled that people felt the heart, soul and dedication I put into each performance. My gift to all of you!
Until next time when I jump back on this "cuckoo" journey...
Jeremy AKA Chief Bromden
Pictured Above: Jeremy Proulx stands onstage just before the final performance of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with the Cardinal Stage Company
I am almost finished the production run of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with the Cardinal Stage Company. What a delight it has been being able to revisit the character and story with such an awesome team of artists and craftsman. It takes an entire team and family of artists to mount a stage production such as this. I am so thrilled and happy that I struck gold with another wonderful group of people. I didn't think the experience from performing it in Atlanta, Georgia could be topped but I definitely had an amazingly different experience here in Bloomington, Indiana. I don't really know when I have another opportunity to perform the role again so I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity and privilege to perform. Very few acting opportunities come along, especially for actors of color, to delve into a meaty and challenging role such as Chief Bromden in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.
Pictured Above: Jeremy Proulx (left) and Mike White (right) in the production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
We've officially opened the production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with the Cardinal Stage Company at the Waldron Arts Centre in Bloomington. What a journey it has been to get to this point. While the houses have been packed audience response has been varied. I find theatre-goers are a little more conservative here in the state of Indiana. Plus the actual theatre space is a lot more intimate than the 900-seat theatre in Atlanta, Georgia where I first performed the role last September.
Several family and friends have already come down to see the show, making the long journey down from Canada to see it. I will be forever grateful for their love and support of my performing arts career. Throughout the years many of them have seen me go through all the highs and lows that this profession has to offer. However I think they now truly understand why I continue to do it. It's because I love it and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
Check out the kooky backstage photo of the cast of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST below. We are having a blast performing the show for audiences and I know the show will only continue to get better for here on out! Tickets are still available by clicking on this link here.
Pictured Above: The ensemble cast goofing it up backstage at the Waldron Arts Centre for the Cardinal Stage Company's production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
With any new project where I have to travel a great distance away from home, sometimes to another country, homesickness can really start to set in after a period of time. Being away from family and close friends can be a challenge for anyone. The great thing about being away from home is when I discover a home away from home through developing new friendships and a supportive network of people who truly understand me. Working in Bloomington for the past 3 weeks with a wonderful cast of actors has also allowed me to discover a very close knit First Nations community in this small town as well. I've been fortunate enough to be introduced to some lovely Indigenous folks here who have shared nothing but warmth, kindness and laughter with me. They even prepared for me some authentic native cuisine with Navajo NDN tacos, blue corn fried bread and hominy corn soup. This soul food has definitely fed me well. Miigwetch to all the people at the First Nations Educational Cultural Centre (FNECC) at Indiana University for opening their doors and welcoming me into the community. I will be forever thankful. I cannot wait to share this new production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with all of you. Miigwetch for the gift of getting to know a new circle of Indigenous brothers and sisters.
Pictured Above: Jeremy Proulx and a few Indigenous members of the Bloomington community at Indiana University's First Nations Educational and Cultural Centre (FNECC)
It's been a productive 3 weeks with rehearsals for the upcoming production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with the Cardinal Stage Company. It's been fabulous being able to work with a rough construction of parts of the set design. Costumes and other props are still being sorted and created for the show.
With any production there needs to be promotion and marketing in order to help get the word out to the general public in hopes that strong interest will build and attract theatre-goers to come out and see the show during it's 2 week run. I've already been told Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network and upcoming Batman vs Superman) and Danny Glover (The Colour Purple) will be coming to see the show which is very exciting.
I just recently sat down with WFIU radio at Indiana University yesterday and talked about how I came to be part of the production here in Bloomington and my process as a First Nation actor. It was a very thought-provoking interview and I will be posted an edited version of that radio interview sometime next week.
I'll also be sitting down with Davina Two Bears, a Navajo Ph.D student (and award-winning fried bread maker) who hosts a weekly radio programme titled "Native Spirit" on WHFB 91.3 FM. She'll be interviewing me on Sunday, January 31st at 11 AM (EST). Click on this link http://wfhb.org/listen/ to be taken the radio website and then download the appropriate Webstreams bandwidth to listen to the radio station live from the comfort of your computer. It's highly recommended you have the most current version of iTunes installed on your computer before proceeding to the link.
Chi-Miigwetch for continuing to follow this journey with me.
Jeremy Proulx AKA Chief Bromden
Pictured Above: The set load in begins at the Waldron Arts Centre for the upcoming production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST