Build­ing a bet­ter na­tion

‘The Dream Catch­ers’ chal­lenges Cana­di­ans to de­velop a bet­ter coun­try for all

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - BY JIM DAY

For as­pir­ing ac­tor/singer Kait­lyn Post, “The Dream Catch­ers” quickly be­came much more than sim­ply a ve­hi­cle to per­form.

The show’s con­tent, which chal­lenges au­di­ences to ac­knowl­edge the plight of Canada’s indige­nous peo­ples and to col­lec­tively work to im­prove the coun­try as a whole, has opened Post’s heart and eyes.

“I came in pretty blind to all of the things that we’re talk­ing about (in the show), and it’s com­pletely trans­formed my way of think­ing,’’ the 25-yearold na­tive of Sus­sex, N.B. says while wip­ing away tears and strug­gling for com­po­sure. Post is white.

She is clearly a vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity as a mem­ber of the 2017 Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Young Com­pany. She shares the stage with black, First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit per­form­ers.

Two casts are both com­prised of 13 per­form­ers drawn from each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory.

Post has not only bonded with her cast mem­bers, but she has come to feel great em­pa­thy for the hard­ships that have been en­dured – and con­tinue to be en­dured – by so many indige­nous peo­ple in Canada.

She mar­vels at how fel­low per­former, Christopher Me­jaki, 31, who has ex­pe­ri­enced his share of pain as a de­scen­dant of a res­i­den­tial school sur­vivor, is such a lovely, up­beat per­son.

“It’s hard to put into words… it’s just over­whelm­ing love,’’ she says of her con­nec­tion to Me­jaki and other Indige­nous per­form­ers in “The Dream Catch­ers”.

Me­jaki’s dream is to “share my cul­ture and his­tory so that peo­ple are in­formed.’’

Head­ing into his fi­nal year at the Na­tional Theatre School of Canada, Me­jaki, who is Anish­naabe (Ojibwa) tribe from the Wik­wemikong Unceded In­dian Re­serve in north­ern On­tario, is work­ing on writ­ing a one-man show based on his life.

He hopes to cap­ture what can hap­pen to an indige­nous fam­ily that lives off re­serve – he grew up in Peterborough, Ont. – with a sin­gle mother who strug­gles with al­co­holism.

Me­jaki looks to ex­plore the im­pact on his mother and on his own up­bring­ing re­sult­ing from his grand­mother be­ing a sur­vivor of a res­i­den­tial school.

“It trick­led down to me,’’ he says.

“It af­fected me. It’s ba­si­cally a show about my life and the real­i­ties of what it could be like just deal­ing with dis­crim­i­na­tion or racism or lack of op­por­tu­nity or get­ting dealt a pretty hard deck of cards.’’

For now, he is em­brac­ing his mul­ti­fac­eted role in “The Dream Catch­ers”, from singing to elab­o­rate hoop danc­ing.

He takes great pride in the show and its pow­er­ful mes­sage.

Play­wright and arts ed­u­ca­tor, Mary Fran­cis Moore, was part of a cre­ative team, in­clud­ing Indige­nous artists Nick Huard and Wa­tio Splicer, that trav­elled across the coun­try in Fe­bru­ary and March to work with young peo­ple in each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory, ex­plor­ing their dreams for the fu­ture, with a fo­cus to­ward the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clu­sion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Moore was charged with writ­ing a show based on her ex­pe­ri­ences.

The re­sult is “The Dream Catcher”, an hon­est, thought­pro­vok­ing and en­ter­tain­ing pro­duc­tion be­ing per­formed by one cast at noon, Mon­day to Saturday at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts am­phithe­atre, while a sec­ond cast tours the show to sev­eral parts of the coun­try.

Moore took great care to strike a palat­able tone as the per­form­ers sing and speak of dreams and truths with drum­ming, danc­ing and even a daz­zling bit of hoop danc­ing pro­vid­ing an up­beat pace to the free show.

“I never wanted it to be a guilt trip,’’ she ex­plains.

“I wanted it to be hold­ing the mir­ror up and say­ing ‘we’re

amaz­ing’ and if we can just talk to each other we can be so much more amaz­ing.’’

Moore says she felt tremen­dous re­spon­si­bil­ity to ar­tic­u­late what she heard in the many work­shops from, among others, First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit youth.

She be­lieves the show – and the mes­sage – res­onates with au­di­ences, in part, be­cause young adults are de­liv­er­ing it.

“They are our hope for the fu­ture and it doesn’t sound like it’s a lec­ture,’’ she notes.

“Very con­sciously for me, the last line of the last song is ‘you will get it right this time’ and then we have the drum beat and I just hope that that res­onates with peo­ple.’’

Moore has been pro­foundly im­pacted by “The Dream Catch­ers”, which is a multi-faceted Canada 150 Sig­na­ture project that looks at Canada, the past and the fu­ture through the lens of the dreams of the next gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans.

“I feel like I am com­pletely changed,’’ she says.

“I don’t think any­body who has worked on this project…is the same af­ter it. Our eyes have been open in such a big way that we can only move for­ward, and I think that will be re­flec­tive in our pro­gram­ming here (at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts), in the kinds of projects we want to keep de­vel­op­ing (and) the sto­ries we want to keep telling.’’

She also be­lieves the project has shown the Young Com­pany per­form­ers the power art has to trans­form.

“I think our First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit per­form­ers,’’ she adds, “are re­al­iz­ing that the rest of the world ac­tu­ally does want to hear what they have to of­fer and see what they have to share – not just as per­form­ers but as in­di­vid­u­als.’’

The project has left Moore in­stilled with a laud­able dream.

“I dream that this con­ver­sa­tion keeps go­ing and it spreads like wild­fire,’’ she says.

“I dream that my chil­dren will live in a so­ci­ety where every­thing that we talk about in this play has been solved. It’s a huge dream but I think we are ca­pa­ble.’’

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Christopher Me­jaki, a per­former in The Dream Catch­ers, daz­zles the crowd with an artis­tic and ath­letic hoop dance.

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

The Con­fed­er­a­tion Young Com­pany was split into two casts of 13 per­form­ers drawn from each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory to per­form The Dream Catch­ers in the am­phithe­atre of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts in Char­lot­te­town and across the coun­try.

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Emily Mead­ows beats a drum - an in­stru­ment used to pow­er­ful ef­fect in The Dream Catch­ers.

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