The play Elapultiek (ehl-ah-bool-dee-egg) ‘we are looking towards’ is coming back to the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts at a very appropriate time.
After watching the power of nature roll over us with Dorian’s hurricane-force winds, we need to reconnect with Mother Earth.
Shalan Joudry’s play was the first time Two Planks and a Passion Theatre had commissioned an Indigenous playwright to create a new work for the company. The play was a meaningful success last year and it has continued to influence.
This summer, Elapultiek was staged on a weekly basis for two months at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. Late this month it returns for two nights.
The premise is simple, but powerful. Joudry’s vision shines out of her play. A young Mi’kmaw drum singer and a biologist meet at dusk each day to count a population of endangered Chimney Swifts. As the relationship deepens, they struggle with their differing views of the world. Each ‘count night’ reveals a deeper complexity of connection to land, history, and ecology, and reconciliation.
Land ownership, controversial statues, and the residual effects of residential schools all come up as the little birds swirl around the roost.
As Joudry has pointed out, “the ideal of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians involve taking turns to speak and to listen, even through the most painful of stories in order for all of us to heal.”
The dialogue is drawn from real life. Dr. Soren Bondrup-Nielsen, who might have been the model for the biologist character, Bill, owns up to the numeral-based approach used by academics and bureaucrats.
According to the emeritus professor at Acadia University, the concept of ‘two-eyed seeing,’ which was coined by Eskasoni elder Albert Marshall, best supports ecological integrity.
The narrow traditional approach of the biological census taker gets stretched. His growth and Joudry’s revelations make this play so worth taking in. She has been busy raising children, performing, writing, and doing ecology work while based out of Bear River First Nation in the traditional district of Kespukwitk (southwest Nova Scotia).
We settler descendants, who are so disconnected, need to sit by the flames of Elapultiek by Fire. The performances at Two Planks take place Sept. 28 and 29.
Euripides's trilogy that ends with the Trojan Women is pure tragedy. It’s all about the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and set as their remaining family members are about to be taken away as slaves.
To make things worse, there’s a young woman who can envision all the tragic action, but no one will believe her prophecies. That’s Greek drama for you. One can’t forget that the Trojan Women was written in 415 BC. The idea was, given the grim plot, audience members would leave feeling their lives weren’t so bad.
Two Planks and a Passion Theatre’s premiere of The Ruins by Fire, written by Gillian Clark, at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts was nothing like that — and yet it was. Staged last month, it was the third production in the outdoor season.
Clark’s decision to write a contemporary adaptation was a brave one, however, Euripedes’ plays have stood the test of time. She sets the discombobulated story on the night of the annual spring Fire Hall Dance in New Troy, N.S.
The kids are playing outside the hall, as they usually do. But this year, dare I say, the vibe is different. Cassandra, played very believably by Jackie Torrens, has seen the future of her little town and it ain’t pretty. She’s just a kid, so not surprisingly no one will believe her.
The production featured a fine ensemble of the high-caliber actors that director Ken Schwartz brings together every year. You have to be talented to pull off a teenager when you’re 35.
I thought Torrens was super successful at playing a young teen cursed to see the future and not be believed. Hilary Adams as Penelope was touching and not on stage enough.
Jeff Schwager displayed all the egotistical, patriarchal motivations of an ancient Greek and a postmodern misogynist, but also displayed a vulnerable streak. Devin MacKinnon as Thai expertly conveyed a bundle of insecurities. His burning of a treasured toy rabbit, however, was hard to fathom, as his bully Odysseus wasn’t watching. But the fates were in play.
Clark, who is studying playwriting at the National Theatre School in Montreal, has worked with Dalhousie University and several small theatre companies. She gave The Ruins a 1950s feel and it proved an interesting experiment around the fire.
Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.