Stage Door News

Ottawa: The National Arts Centre unveils its inaugural season of Indigenous Theatre

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Canada’s National Arts Centre today unveiled details of the inaugural season of the first national Indigenous Theatre department in the world. The season will celebrate Indigenous women’s resilience, strength and beauty, with 9 productions out of 11 written and created by women. In addition to English and French, more than 10 Indigenous languages will be spoken in the works presented next year, including Anishinaabemowin, Coast Salish, Cree, Gitxsan, Inuktitut, Kalaallisut,  Nlaka’pamux’stn, Wolastoqiyik, and other languages.  

First season highlights include performances by legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and JUNO Award-winning Inuk recording artist Susan Aglukark, as well as established and emerging artists from across Canada and the world. These includeMarie Clements, Charles Bender, Margaret Grenier, Artcirq (with The 7 Fingers), and the Indigenous artists appearing in Australia’s Hot Brown Honey production, to name a few.

The new Indigenous Theatre is led by Artistic Director Kevin Loring, Governor General award-winning playwright, director and actor from the Nlaka'pamux Nation in British Columbia, and Managing Director Lori Marchand, a member of the Syilx First Nation and the nationally recognized former executive director of Western Canada Theatre.

“We are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance,” said Kevin Loring “The work that has been done over the decades in Indigenous performing arts is coming to a point where we are reaching a critical mass, where the artists are bringing forward new ways of thinking about the work in relation to old ways of telling our stories. Our stories are medicine.” 

The creation of the Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre was part of the Centre’s 2015-2020 strategic plan in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. “The new Indigenous Theatre department at the National Arts Centre is an historic and significant milestone in our history,” said Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the NAC. “Our theatre will finally create a space and presence for Indigenous voices and stories on the national stage. This significant initiative builds on the relationships that the NAC has been fostering for decades with exceptional Indigenous artists throughout the land.”


The NAC’s Indigenous Theatre 2019-2020 season gets underway September 11 with a two and half-week Indigenous arts and community festival called Mòshkamo: Indigenous Arts Rising that will takeover the National Arts Centre, located in Ottawa onunceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg territory. Mòshkamo (pronounced moosh-ka-moh) is an Algonquin word, gifted to the NAC by Elders from the nearby community of Kitigan Zibi, meaning the act of appearing out of water, inviting others to bear witness to its arrival.

In addition to performances, Mòshkamo will include artist talks and workshops, visual arts exhibits, free public programming and family-friendly activities, culinary events, and Indigenous arts programming for national and international artists, producers and presenters. This immersive takeover of the NAC’s public spaces will involve all of the existing NAC disciplines: theatre, dance and music. Mòshkamo will also shine the spotlight on the culinary arts during a special gala on September 12 featuring renowned Saskatoon Chef Rich Francis and NAC Executive Chef, Kenton Leier, who will collaborate and curate a menu infused with indigenous ingredients and techniques.  

“In a season focused on themes of cultural reclamation, Mòshkamo proudly claims the Indigenous Theatre’s rightful place at the NAC and on the national stage,” said Lori Marchand. “Mòshkamo sets the tone for our first season, a season filled with strong and authentic Indigenous voices.” 

All works presented by NAC Indigenous Theatre are based on, performed, or created by Indigenous artists, reflecting at least one of the following criteria: an Indigenous playwright, an Indigenous director or an Indigenous co-production.


 The Unnatural and Accidental Women

·        September 11-21 in the Babs Asper Theatre 

  • ·        Written by Marie Clements
  • ·        Directed by Muriel Miguel
  • ·        An NAC Indigenous Theatre / NAC English Theatre Co-production
  • ·        Presented in English, featuring Coast Salish. 

Award-winning Métis-Dene playwright Marie Clements’ tender and provocative The Unnatural and Accidental Women courageously demands that we never forget the continuing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. This powerful production fearlessly walks Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, pushing us ever closer to truth and remembering.

Là où le sang se mêle / Where the Blood Mixes

  • ·        September 13-15 in French (co-presented with Zones Théâtrales) AND September 16-18 in English In the Azrieli Studio          
  • ·        Written by Kevin Loring
  • ·        Translated and directed by Charles Bender
  • ·        A Menuentakuan production in collaboration with Teesri Duniya Theatre
  • ·        In French or English, featuring Nlaka’pamux’stn.

Kevin Loring’s Là où le sang se mêle / Where the Blood Mixes, winner of the 2009 Governor General’s Award for Drama, is an emotionally powerful play that unflinchingly brings home the pain that the residential school system caused generations of Indigenous communities. Irreverently funny and brutally honest, Where the Blood Mixes is a story of loss and redemption set in the heart of the Fraser Canyon.

Mokatek and the Missing Star (Mokatek et l’étoile disparue)

  • ·        September 13-14 in Le Salon
  • ·        By Dave Jenniss
  • ·        Music by Élise Boucher-DeGonzague
  • ·        Directed by Pier Rodier
  • ·        A coproduction by Vox Théâtre (Ottawa) and Productions Ondinnok (Montréal)
  • ·        Co-presented with Zones Théâtrales
  • ·        Presented in French, featuring Anishinaabemowin with chants in Abenaki.

Remembering his mother each night before he sleeps, young Mokatek recounts his day to the brightest star in the sky, the North Star. But one night, under the full moon of the summer solstice, Mokatek realizes that the star has disappeared. So begins a journey that will test his courage and strength with every step. Along the way, Mokatek is guided by the spirits of sounds and animals that move him ever closer to his own origins and the land. Combining puppetry, songs and dance, Mokatek and the Missing Star will awaken you to the beauty and wealth of Indigenous languages.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

  • ·        September 15 in Southam Hall
  • ·        Presented in collaboration with NAC Presents in partnership with BMO Financial Group

Buffy Sainte-Marie continues to create songs that reveal distinct shades of an artist already revered as a pioneer. Winner of countless awards, Buffy’s songs weave the human narratives left out of the history books.

Susan Aglukark and the NAC Orchestra (Conductor Nicolas Ellis)

  • ·        September 20 in Southam Hall
  • ·        Presented in collaboration with the NAC Orchestra and NAC Presents

Discover the vibrant and beautiful culture of the North through storytelling and throat-singing with JUNO Award-winning Inuk singer-songwriter, activist and recording artist Susan Aglukark and friends.

Finding Wolastoq Voice

  • ·        September 21-23 in the Azrieli Studio
  • ·        By Samaqani Cocahq (Natalie Sappier)
  • ·        A Theatre New Brunswick production in association with Prairie Theatre Exchange
  • ·        Presented in English, featuring Wolastoqiyik.

Finding Wolastoq Voice is a powerful debut work from Indigenous artist-turned-playwright Samaqani Cocahq (Natalie Sappier) of Tobique First Nation, a leading voice in New Brunswick’s thriving Indigenous art scene. Featuring the evocative choreography of dancer Aria Evans, this beautiful dance-theatre hybrid is the deeply personal coming-of-age story of a young Wolastoqiyik woman who is awakened by the voices of her ancestors. Evans draws on her experiences as a woman of mixed race (Mi’kmaq/Black/British) to beautifully convey feelings of sorrow, grace, and hope. Andy Moro has created an organic, natural world that shifts and moves seamlessly, providing the foundation for this inspiring work.


  • ·        September 26-28 in the Azrieli Studio
  • ·        Created by Dancers of Damelahamid
  • ·        World Premiere co-presented with NAC Indigenous Theatre and NAC Dance and developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund
  • ·        Co-producers The CanDance Network Creation Fund, National Arts Centre, The Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch), DanceWorks, Neighbourhood Dance Works with support from the Canada Council for the Arts
  • ·        The production of this work was supported by Dance Victoria’s Chrystal Dance Prize

The Dancers of Damelahamid are an Indigenous dance company from the Northwest coast of British Columbia. Their rich history of masked dance celebrates the diversity of the many Indigenous cultures of Canada.  Weaving together narrative, song, movement, and new multimedia, Mînowin unites the foundational values of reciprocity of Northwest Coastal cultures with contemporary dance to illuminate the process of finding direction. Inspired by the organic moments that arise when we connect with one another, Mînowin links Northwest coastal landscapes with contemporary views of Indigenous dance, shining a light on the moments of connection and understanding that lead us ultimately to renewal.


  • ·        January 9-12 in the Babs Asper Theatre
  • ·        A collaboration between The 7 Fingers, Artcirq, and Taqqut Productions
  • ·        Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter, First Air, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Conseil des Arts de Montréal, Ilagiiktunut Fund - Qikiqtani Inuit Association, and Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation. Developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.
  • ·        Video content created by world-renowned Inuit artist and illustrator Germaine Arnaktauyok,and directed by Neil Christopher.
  • ·        Featured language: Inuktitut

Inuit founding myths are the inspiration for Unikkaaqtuat, a cross-cultural blending of circus arts, theatre, music, and video. The actors, musicians, and acrobats of Unikkaaqtuat perform in a world of shadows and video projections, transporting us to an ancient realm where life did not known death, days had not seen nights, and where Inuit had not encountered white people. Created by a new generation of storytellers and performers from across Nunavut and Nunavik, Unikkaaqtuat highlights the talents of Inuit artists at a national and international scale, fostering a unique environment for cross-cultural collaboration, while honouring the Inuit, their traditions, and their vision for a future beyond this project. Unikkaaqtuat brings together Inuit and non-Inuit artists, led by the musicians and circus artists of Artcirq of Igloolik and Taqqut Productions of Iqaluit, and joined by circus artists from The 7 Fingers of Montreal and a similarly diverse team of designers and technicians.

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

  • ·        January 22-February 9 at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC)
  • ·        Created by Evalyn Parry, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Erin Brubacher and Elysha Poirier with Cris Derksen
  • ·        A Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Production / Co-presented with and hosted by Great Canadian Theatre Company
  • ·        Featured language: Kalaallisut

At once strangely complex and astonishingly simple, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools is a concert and conversation between two people: both women, storytellers, and artists. Queer theatre-maker Evalyn Parry and Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory met on an Arctic expedition from Iqaluit to Greenland, setting out with very different ideas of what dreams the expedition might fulfil. One was realizing her father’s wish to see the far North, the other was navigating the routes of her ancestors. Embodying the stories of their heritage, Evalyn and Laakkuluk put a face to the colonial histories, power structures and the changing climate that lie between them.

Inner Elder

  • ·        April 7-10 in the Azrieli Studio
  • ·        By Michelle Thrush  
  • ·        Presented in English, featuring Cree

A young girl searches for her Inner Elder among the shambles of her family life in 1970s Calgary, our guide on a journey of transformation through real-life memories and the power of laughter. In this devastatingly funny one-woman show, Gemini Award-winning Cree artist Michelle Thrush weaves seemingly disparate anecdotes into an organic and powerful testimony that that will sear your heart, open your eyes, and have you laughing out loud.

Hot Brown Honey

  • ·        May 5-9 in the Babs Asper Theatre
  • ·        By The Briefs Factory (Australia)
  • ·        Presented in English 

Welcome to the Hive where these subversive and completely original genre-defying global Indigenous artists who call Australia home turn up the heat. Hot Brown Honey is sass made flesh, serving up a no-holds-barred, hip-hop helping of stereotype-smashing, consciousness-raising empowerment. Equal parts theatrical masterpiece, riotous burlesque and devastating candour, Hot Brown Honey mows down any preconceptions that get in the way, hammering home important universal truths in an explosion of colour, culture and controversy. Get ready to decolonize and moisturize!


Visit for complete listing of performances for the National Arts Centre’s Indigenous Theatre and theMòshkamo festival. 

Tickets for Indigenous Theatre go on sale today, with the opportunity to select four or more performances and save 15%. 

For additional information, visit the NAC website at Follow our journey at and celebrate with us by tagging #NACIndigenous/#CNAutochtone


Since opening its doors on June 2 1969, the National Arts Centre has acted as a national, bilingual and multidisciplinary performing arts centre, located in the nation’s capital, on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. In its first year, almost 50 years ago, the NAC presented The Ecstasy of Rita Joe by George Ryga, a play that was groundbreaking because it reflected an Indigenous experience. Since then, the NAC has continued to feature Indigenous artists and productions on its stages.

The idea of establishing a national Indigenous Theatre department arose in recent years. The need has become ever more urgent, as the Indigenous community has asserted that creating Indigenous works without the full involvement of Indigenous voices and actors, playwrights and directors is no longer acceptable. Consultations with Indigenous artists and leaders led to establishing an advisory committee involving recognized Indigenous artists, youth and Elders and NAC representatives. Stakeholders identified the need to create a permanent national stage for Indigenous stories at the NAC on an equal level with the already-existing English and French Theatres.

As part of the celebrations of its 50th anniversary in 2019, the NAC is acknowledging its longstanding commitment to Indigenous artists and their work with the launch of the first national Indigenous Theatre in the world. The first season will commence in September 2019, bringing the artistic stories, vision and experience of Indigenous Peoples to the forefront.