Preview: Indigenous scriptwriter’s debut show aims to empower women
Kaitlyn Yott (left to right), Yolanda Bonnell, and Samantha Brown all feature in the play Kamloopa coming to Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon. (Photo by Tim Matheson for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix) Saskatoon
Kim Senklip Harvey made the decision to jump from performing to writing after becoming exhausted with how Indigenous women were being portrayed onstage.
“If you don’t see a person in our community for everything that they are, it’s hard to see the humanity. It’s hard to see where you relate,” she said.
Harvey’s scriptwriting debut is the show Kamloopa, named after the huge powwow of the same name that takes place in B.C. near Kamloops. The show about two sisters travelling to powwow and their personal journeys of self-discovery is travelling to Persephone Theatre this October.
Harvey said the goal of the show is to not only provide entertainment, but also break some of the typical boundaries of Canadian theatre and educate the audience.
“We’re embedding it in Indigenous artistic ceremony, which means we’re calling people to bear witness to this story,” Harvey said. “You actually have to act within the teachings that you’re given.”
Harvey referred to her show as a “love letter” to Indigenous women that tries to explore the stage in a way that’s different than what she called “Canadian theatre.”
With a cast made up of entirely Indigenous women, and a company comprised of an all-female creative and production team, Harvey said this show was an example of what they were calling “Indigenous matriarchal theatre” — drama by Indigenous women, featuring Indigenous women.
It’s the exact kind of thing Harvey saw as missing from the theatre world in the country, and the reason she chose to leave the world of performing for working behind the scenes. Harvey said in her experience there’s “not a lot of agency” for actors to influence the scripts and shows in Canadian theatre, so this was the best way she would be able to create “fully formed” female roles.
And Harvey said she wanted to write this show in a way that would present their message differently. It’s not driven by a classically structured plot, and she said time is “not linear” for most of the show. Instead, Harvey wanted the show to have a “value-centric” approach that focuses more on those values Harvey wants to portray than a standard story.
“It’s centred around the values of what it means to be courageous enough to figure out what it means to be who we are … and how that is applied to the community,” she said.
So far, Harvey’s play has met with a positive response from the audience. She said there are parts of the show that will resonate much more with women and Indigenous women, but also noted there was something for everyone to take away from the play. The point of the audience as witnesses, Harvey stressed, was the conversations brought up by the play would continue outside the theatre.
Despite the early success of the show, Harvey said she can’t be too happy yet. For her, there’s still a lot to do in a push for equality. And she hopes that Kamloopa can be a good start.
“When people ask, ‘What can I do to help with Indigenous peoples’ rights?’ It’s showing up. It’s showing up and bearing witness,” she said.
When: Oct. 17 to 28
Where: Remai Arts Centre BackStage Stage
Box Office: www.persephonetheatre.org