Indigenous play part of Neptune Theatre’s upcoming season

Raeesa Lalani, artistic director of the Prismatic Arts Festival, announced on Feb. 28. 2023 that Pawâkan Macbeth by Reneltta Arluk, will be a part of Neptune Theatre's 2023-24 season/Photo by Stephen Brake

An Indigenous adaptation of a Shakespeare play will be part of Neptune Theatre’s upcoming 2023-24 season.

Pawâkan Macbeth written by Reneltta Arluk, is scheduled to be performed at Neptune Theatre in Halifax, N.S. Oct. 3-8.

The production will also be a part of the Halifax-based Prismatic Arts Festival, an annual, multidisciplinary arts festival that showcases work by Indigenous artists and artists of colour.

It will be the first time the play, a Plains Cree adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, will be showcased in Mi’kma’ki.

Pawâkan means “dream spirt” in Cree

Pawâkan means “dream spirit” in Cree. In Arluk’s adaptation, it represents the Wihtiko, a spirit that is meant to be rejected. Similar to the original Macbeth in which the evil spirit takes over when Macbeth is most vulnerable.

The story of Pawâkan Macbeth takes place before colonization when the Plains Cree are allied with the Stoney Nakoda but at war with the Blackfoot. Their autonomy and independence are placed jeopardy when the Canadian government under Sir John A. MacDonald begin expansion in the west.

“Reneltta found that there were similarities between what she was learning about Macbeth to the Cree story-telling that her ancestors and family would tell her,” Raeesa Lalani, artistic director of Prismatic Arts Festival, says.

Raeesa Lalani is the artistic director of the Prismatic Arts Festival/Photo by Stephen Brake

Lalani explains that Arluk, an Inuvialuit, Cree and Dene from the Northwest Territories, wanted to figure out a way to use the story of Macbeth and “bring it to Indigenous youth so they can see themselves represented on stage.”

Pawâkan Macbeth, which features an entirely Indigenous cast, was first performed at the Akpik Theatre in N.W.T., that Arluk herself founded.

According to the Akpik Theatre website, Arluk spent time with Cree students at Chief Napeweaw School in Frog Lake First Nation, Alberta, before writing her adaptation of Macbeth.

Mi’kmaw play will tour schools

Neptune Theatre’s upcoming touring show will include a Mi’kmaw playwright.

Mischief, written by Lisa Nasson from the Millbrook First Nation near Truro, N.S. will be one of three plays performed at various schools throughout Nova Scotia as part of Neptune’s Tour Company.

The play is about a youth activist who is questioned by authorities after the statue of Edward Cornwallis loses his head. The play is inspired by true events and looks at the historical context of Mi’kmaw oppression.

“I think this play will prompt dialogue. It’s theatre aimed to inspire youth,” Laura Caswell, director of education at the Neptune Theatre, said.

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About Haeley DiRisio 3 Articles
Haeley DiRisio is a Master of Journalism student at the University of King's College in Halifax, N.S.