A Cree Tragedy by Reneltta Arluk
Pawâkan Macbeth is Indigenous playwright, Reneltta Arluk’s groundbreaking reimagining of Shakespeare’s darkest play into Cree history, legend and cosmology.
Set in Plains Cree territory in the 1870s, before the establishment of First Nations reserves, Pawâkan Macbeth takes place in a time when First Nations warred with each other and the Canadian Government over territory, food supply and trade. Harsh environments brought immense fear, starvation, and uncertainty together to awaken the darkest of Cree spirits, the Wihtiko – an evil being with an insatiable appetite for human flesh.
“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
“Pawâkan is a dream spirit that comes to you during your rite of passage. For myself, I see it as a guide that reveals itself in its time of need. The Wihtiko can come to you as your Pawâkan and we are told that it needs to be rejected then. I ask, what happens when it arrives and takes you when you are most vulnerable?”
– Reneltta Arluk, Playwright
Inspired from stories shared by Indigenous Elders in Frog Lake First Nation following protocol, Arluk has created a new, visceral experience of Macbeth; marrying Shakespeare’s language, modern English, and Cree through poetry and prose. As historical wars are waged between the Cree and Nakoda against the Blackfoot, Macikosisân (Macbeth), a great Okihcitâw (warrior), becomes consumed by the cannibal spirit Wihtiko. He plots with Kâwanihot Iskwew (Lady Macbeth), to kill their Chief, Okimâw Wîpâstim (Duncan). Pawâkan Macbeth is a terrifying journey through love, greed, honour and betrayal, with trickster beings that lie like truth.
Written by Reneltta Arluk (Inuvialuit, Cree, Dene), co-directed by Barry Bilinsky (Métis, Cree, Ukrainian) and Mark Henderson, Pawâkan Macbeth is performed by a talented cast featuring: Gilbert J. Anderson, Theron Auigbelle, Mari Chartier, Lancelot Knight, Nathan Loitz, Sophie Merasty, Joel D. Montgrand, Curtis Peeteetuce, Allyson Pratt, Mitchell Saddleback, and Bruce E. Sinclair.A co-production of Akpik Theatre and Theatre Prospero, Pawâkan Macbeth will have a staged reading and feedback session with invited students and Elders in Frog Lake First Nation on November 10, 2017, and a public Edmonton Presentation from November 23 to 26, 2017 at the ATB Financial Arts Barns.
The overall purpose of this development and the Edmonton Presentation is to work towards bringing professional Indigenous theatre into Indigenous communities that simply don’t have access to the arts.
Pawâkan Macbeth is produced with the support of Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program*, Edmonton Community Foundation, Edmonton Arts Council, Alberta Lottery Fund and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. *Pawâkan Macbeth is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.
We Are All Treaty People
Costume Drawings for 2017 production by Designer Logan Martin-Archand