Review: Weesageechak Begins To Dance Festival (Native Earth)

Native Earth presents new works at the Theatre Passe Muraille from October 26th to 29th, 2011.

I attended the opening night of this festival featuring new Aboriginal plays and films, unsure of what to expect. The audience was made up of people who seemed to know each other and there was a great sense of community within the theatre company and also with the people in attendance. I watched the first play of the night, Hoofs, written by a young woman named Angela Loft.

This play is actually based on a Kahnawake story of the Hoof Lady. Much like a Siren, the Hoof Lady is a beautiful seductress – and young men are told to be wary of her.  And young women must stop this mysterious creature who will steal their men. But once lured, these men would see her hooves and run screaming. Loft retells this story in a contemporary way.

Hoofs revolves around the relationships between young people. Lovers and friends are at the centre of this story – all the men have been seduced at one point or another by this particular woman in town.

I am extremely impressed with playwright Loft’s ability to craft a story and tell it so perfectly. For the first fifteen minutes of the play, I was unsure of where the story was heading and what its “point” was. The story begins simply, but the execution of the tale is so real that it is no longer simple; it is richly realistic.

“Prove your love for me,” is a line repeated throughout the play, and the play seems to delve into themes of proving love, attaining love, and losing love.

The play is a first draft of what was originally a one-woman show. The concept was expanded to a five-woman piece, and the draft presented to us on opening night consisted of three women and two men. They stood and spoke, with occasional movements to enhance the performance.

I very much enjoyed the dynamics between the characters. Hoofs feels intricate and multi-dimensional with such a great range of voices and personalities. The actors chosen were excellent and truly embodied the characters.

Reneltta Arluk plays the seductress well, moving with sultriness and oozing with charm when around males. Arluk, along with Cheri Maracle and Jeremy Proulx, made me laugh with their witty moments, and played serious moments very well. Jamie Robinson’s character was much more dark and intense. He has a commanding presence and intriguing voice. Lisa Cromarty is the voice of reason in this play, with her soothing words and concerned thoughts. I think they were all perfect choices for the roles.

Loft’s Hoofs is a play with modern dialogue and imagery that is classically beautiful. For example, there is a scene where a young man has to dive to the bottom of a river and find rocks that have become purple-ish in colour that sticks out in my mind.

The play has some very funny moments and some heartbreaking ones. It is dramatic, and though it felt a bit heavy at times, it never overwhelmed me.

I imagine that this script could easily be turned into a film, as the narrative is strong, the imagery is splendid and the characters are solid. It seems that one of Loft’s strengths is her ability to integrate imagery into her play with great skill and uniqueness. I am curious to see what the final version of this play will turn out to be as it has a lot of possibilities from here.

The second play of the night was Huff, written by Clifford Cardinal, who recently debuted his play Stitch at the 2011 SummerWorks Festival. I was not able to attend this play, but I imagine that the works presented at Weesageechak Begins To Dance Festival will all be just as interesting and compelling as the one I saw.

I highly recommend attending one of the plays at the Weesageechak Festival. This is the festival’s 24th year in existence. I believe it is critical to the fabric of our Canadian society to support and encourage Aboriginal playwrights and the stories they have to tell. Through the medium of theatre, we can find ways to relate to and enlighten each other.

Photo of Cheri Maracle, Reneltta Arluk, Jamie Robinson and Jeremy Proulx by Scott Benesiinaabandan


The Weesageechak Begins To Dance Festival is taking place at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave.) till October 29th, 2011.

Shows begin at either 2pm or 8pm.

Check for more details on the show listings.

Tickets can be purchased at 416.504.7529 or at the Arts Box Office.

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