How and when did you first get connected to TT?
I got connected to Theatre Terrific through my work at Neighbourhood House in the DTES. Stan Shaffer, the editor of The Right to Food Zine said that his wife Susanna Uchatius, the Artistic Director of Theatre Terrific needed a ramp built for their Vancouver Fringe Festival production of Pantaloon’s Pawnshop. I contacted Susanna and together we worked on the details. We kept in touch and I assisted in more productions, helping in design, managing the big puppet for the production of BEING ANIMAL and building another ramp to make the site-specific show on Granville Island accessible. Now we are partnering in the Hidden Stories Project.
Tell us about your background?
I was born on the Enoch Cree Reserve and was raised on reserve until 3 ½ years old and then was part of the 60’s scoop and was sent to a residential school in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I was there for three years and then was shipped to Edmonton and went through many foster homes and institutions. After high school I went to U of A and got my Bachelor of Science in religious studies. Learning about the spiritual, brought me into looking for the truth about my aboriginal background that I did not know anything about. This means a lot to me today.
How did you get into theatre?
All through school I was always part of the Christmas plays, either on the stage but also doing backstage stuff. I remember in one play they got me to figure out how to use a vacuum cleaner on stage without having a long cord running backstage that would trip people. I built a real electrical plug right into the set, so they could just plug it in on stage. Then, all through high school I was busy in theatre. I was the lighting guy, ropes and chains and the old fashioned stuff. Went on to U of A and got a bachelor of science in religious studies. Started working in theatre in Edmonton with Green Fools Theatre. I became the house technician and set designer. We did puppet and mask design, clowning and stilt walking. I was pretty busy and then other theatre companies contracted me. I worked with Stage West theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Ghost River Theatre, Vertigo Theatre, The Citadel, Edmonton Opera, Old Trout Puppet Company to name a few. I moved to Vancouver in 2011.
What else do I do besides work with Theatre Terrific?
Right now I work for different societies; Neighborhood House, Aboriginal Front Door and Look Out Society. I do stuff with the Carnegie cultural sharing programs. I cook a lot of the meals for events. I learned to cook out of need. I remember pulling up a chair in one of the foster homes and turning the burners on to cook eggs and bacon. One foster home was with an elderly couple and I ended up doing a lot of the cooking. That was one of the few homes I felt at home in and then government removed me because they said the old folks were supposed to be looking after me instead of me looking after them.
What other skills do you have?
I have art skills. I have been part of some local murals, done some oil canvas portraits. I did an oil painting of Ralph Klein. They gave me a photo and asked me to paint it and then were not happy that it looked like the photo! I have done clowning and stilt walking. I’ve made drums. I got tired of main street theatre and wanted something with life. Green Fools Theatre in Calgary was great to work with. They did a lot of different things. I even got to fly people on stage.
What is your involvement in the Hidden Stories Project?
I have a lot of connections in the DTES and wanted to bring theatre to Aboriginal Front Door because there they tell their stories but they don’t get the knowledge to do any healing. I want to use art for healing and look to theatre to help with that aspect of things. Theatre, in my life, has always been a saving grace. It did a lot of healing for me, in a lot of ways. Like ways of forgiveness, ways of looking through other peoples eyes, ways to teach you another way of thinking. Theatre teaches you how to give and learning to give is the biggest healer.
First, I hope they get a sense of enjoyment and basically being able to walk away with something new in their lives. Learning another train of thought. Our biggest way of learning is from one another. I hope they get a different way of being able to see the bigger picture instead of just inside a little box. You learn how to see people in a different way.
What is Hidden Stories?
I think these will be stories you would not usually tell in a public form and this is going to put a new light on Aboriginal Front Door. We are just painted as a DTES community but we are much more than that. We are a resource centre for aboriginal people based in the DTES, but people come from all over.
Tell us one thing about you?
The one thing about me is that I’m a very spiritual person and am always in pursuit of the spiritual life. I am labeled a Metis under the white paper act. I am a Cree from my mother who had the name Beauregarde and from what I know, my father had the Cree name. I don’t know the full story; just bits and pieces. I want people to know me for me and not for things that I have done.