Pawâkan Macbeth is indigenous playwright Reneltta Arluk’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s into Macbeth into Cree history, legend and cosmology.
A co-production, by Theatre Prospero of Edmonton and Akpik Theatre of Yellowknife, Pawâkan Macbeth will open in Edmonton in November 2017, tour to rural communities between the cities in 2018/2019, then play in Yellowknife.
“We Cree have a legend of the Witiko; he is an evil being with an insatiable hunger. The more he eats, though, the hungrier and bigger he gets. My students always draw a comparison between the Witiko and Macbeth. Macbeth relates to many themes that are prevalent in Cree legends: greed, loyalty, love, horror, and balance.”
– Owen Morris, English Teacher, Chief Napeweaw School, Frog Lake First Nation
Arluk has re-imagined Shakespeare’s play in a time when harsh winters brought fear, hungerand uncertainty together to awaken a evil, terrifying spirit. The play is much more than a simple retelling. Pawakan Macbeth is inspired by stories told by elders during a Theatre Prospero artists residency focussing on Macbeth at the Frog Lake First Nation, near Lloydminster.
Pawâkan Macbeth has the bones of Shakespeare’s story, fleshed out in the 1870s in a fluid mix of contemporary aboriginally inflected English, Shakespeare’s English and formal and colloquial Cree.Arluk sets her story before the establishment of reserves adding historical wars in the area between the Cree, Blackfoot and Peigan and Cree stories to the elders’ stories about the Witiko and other spirits. In a harsh winters tinged with the fear of starvation, she weaves Cree history, cosmology and legend together into the story of a war chief and his wife who kill their chief, take control of their people and lead them on a path toward destruction.
Working with Cree speakers, Arluk has refined the play’s Cree language, idioms and protocols to make Pawâkan Macbeth cultural and historical, yet contemporary.
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Your support will help First Nations artists share their stories with Indigenous audiences, and give those audiences the chance to see their culture on regional stages. We invite you to join us to inspire Alberta youth with Canada’s rich culture in our 150th year and beyond.
Theatre Prospero is seeking partner organizations to support the sharing of this cultural take on a classic tale with the students of Alberta. By becoming involved, you or your organization will help make this production accessible to more audiences, students and schools. Help us to enable First Nations actors to spread their culture and stories to new audiences, and to deepen the wealth of Canada diversity with the resurgence of one of its first cultures.
We Are All Treaty People
”Cultural resurgence is about the dark as well as the light. Resurgence is not just about the beautiful things. It is also about the dark things, that helped us to be balanced as people.” – Reneltta Arluk, Playwright
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