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Dwellings draws audiences in through intimate, moving performances

Visiting Indigenous artists lead a collaborative art work that explores the topic of Indigenous homes
April 20, 2017
By Danielle Gasher

Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward. Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward.

Starting April 20, parts of Concordia’s downtown campus will become live stages for an immersive public theatre performance called Dwellings.

The Department of Theatre’s final public performance this term focuses on the concept of Indigenous homes. Students created the piece collaboratively with visiting Indigenous artists Emilie Monnet and Floyd Favel and associate professor Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer.

Actors, designers and stage managers spent the term applying theatrical methods and techniques to Indigenous stories to make theatre grounded in Indigenous history, cultures and techniques.

The performance unfolds in pop-up spaces in the LB and EV buildings, as well as the De Maisonneuve tunnel. The spaces themselves influence diverse narratives that range from family, the womb, and rivers. The goal is for performers and audiences to reflect together on contemporary Indigenous issues and the stories, people and homes at the heart of them.

Dwellings runs from Thursday, April 20, to Sunday, April 23.

‘One has to ground the work in the history, cultures and techniques of this land’

Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward. Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward.
Floyd Favel: Indigenous playwright, writer, artist

Four years ago, I met Professor Neuerburg-Denzer at a conference, and she proposed a collaboration exploring the situation of homes and housing amongst Indigenous People.

At that time – and to this day – there are very few collaborations between universities and Indigenous People. We worked on a project in 2014, called 'Attawapiskat is no Exception' at Concordia. The project has grown and developed to be more fluid and encompassing of different discourses and histories surrounding dwelling and housing. You will be able to see that in Dwellings.

There is a need for an open collaborative process on a project such as Dwellings. The theme is so broad. Open collaboration ensures that the ideas remain open and that we can focus on a few chosen areas.

To create a truly Canadian theatre, one has to ground the work in the history, cultures and techniques of this land. Proper education on Indigenous issues is as important as before, when we were in the margins of this country, when we were invisible. Now that Indigenous issues have been brought into the light, it becomes harder to hide Canada's hidden face.

Injustice still happens on a daily basis. But there is hope. We must always have hope is what our elders say.

'Small, unconventional spaces allows for great intimacy'

Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward. Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward.
Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer: Associate Professor Department of Theatre

Dwellings is about Indigenous housing. This story needs to be told by Indigenous artists. We can only talk about these things with a mixed group of people in the room.

Floyd and Emilie's ideas, stories and approaches to making work inspired the students and myself. There were many teachings, small and large, throughout the process.

Dwellings is an immersive, roaming performance piece, directed and conceived by many artistic minds. This particular piece and approach to theatre making is focused on multitude and immersion. It is a non-hierarchical process and experience as opposed to a linear, hierarchical structure.

Doing theatre in small, unconventional spaces allows for great intimacy. The audience, through this proximity, is led to the realization that we are all implicated in the Canadian-Indigenous relationship, but that this nearness might also offer a chance to move forward together, if for a short moment only.

‘Engaging students in holistic learning about Indigenous histories and knowledges’

Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward. Scene from Dwellings. Photo by David Ward.
Elizabeth Fast: Assistant professor and Special Advisor to the Provost, Indigenous Directions

We all need to begin with a commitment to learn the truths about Canada’s colonial past and take steps to rectify our collective ignorance on these histories and contemporary realities.

Concordia’s newly formed Indigenous Directions Leadership Group has a two-and-a-half year mandate to consult with students, staff and faculty to begin to address some of these gaps in knowledge.

Artistic projects like Dwellings serve as ideal avenues to engage students in holistic learning about Indigenous histories and knowledges. They line up well with Indigenous pedagogies that engage not only the intellectual aspects, but also the physical, emotional and spiritual ways that students can connect to these experiences.

Tickets and event times

Dwellings runs from April 20-23

Dwellings: Multisensory Environments in Collaboration with Indigenous Artists

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