Kanata tells the story of relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. (Théâtre du Soleil) Quebec director Robert Lepage’s new theatre production has been cancelled.
The decision to cancel Kanata , a show that explores Canada’s settler history, comes after some of the North American co-producers withdrew from the project, Lepage’s production company, Ex Machina, said in a statement Thursday morning.
"Without their financial support, we are unable to finish creating Kanata with Théâtre du Soleil. Therefore, we are putting an end to the project," the statement reads.
Indigenous writers, actors and community activists raised concerns this month about the lack of Indigenous artists in the play, which was meant to be staged at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris in December. ‘Hearing other people tell our stories’
A group of them released an open letter criticizing the production, saying they were tired "of hearing other people tell our stories."
They said they wanted to see Indigenous performers included in the show.
As a result of the letter, 34 of the Indigenous activists who signed it sat down last week with Lepage and Ariane Mnouchkine, whose Paris-based theatre company was putting on the play, to discuss their concerns.
Some of the activists emerged from the six-hour meeting saying Lepage had done little to address the issues, however.
Nakuset, the executive director of Montreal’s Native Women’s Shelter, who attended the meeting, said she welcomed the play’s cancellation.
While Lepage’s team said the decision was made because financial backers withdrew, Nakuset said that was good enough.
"I’m thrilled that somebody got it. That’s what we wanted. We wanted someone’s light bulb to go off.… Apparently, it wasn’t Robert Lepage’s team, but the end result is we don’t have to worry about this play damaging our history," she told CBC News.
"And maybe there’s an opportunity in the future to work with him, where we are truly working with him."
In its statement, Ex Machina said a discussion about cultural appropriation needs to take place.
"Beyond this troubling situation, sooner or later we will need to try to understand — calmly and together — what cultural appropriation and the right to free artistic expression fundamentally are." In its statement, Lepage’s production company said a conversation needs to be held about the meaning of cultural appropriation. (Christian Côté/Radio-Canada) Earlier Lepage production dropped from Jazz Fest
The cancellation of Kanata comes after another Lepage production, SLĀV , was dropped by the Montreal International Jazz Festival after being accused of cultural appropriation.
That show, performed by singer Betty Bonifassi and directed by Lepage, both of whom are white, featured African-American slave songs.Ex Machina said it plans to meet with critics of SLĀV this fall.The show will be staged in other Quebec cities later this year. Quebec politicians weigh in With a provincial election in Quebec just over two months away, the issue is reverberating in political circles.Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québécois, tweeted his support for Lepage Thursday.Lisée called on Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard to support the production."Support for more diversity in the arts, absolutely," Lisée tweeted. "The retreat of freedoms, never!"The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), which has put identity politics front and centre in the months leading up to the electoral campaign, calls Ex Machina’s decision to cancel Kanata "regrettable.""As with the cancellation of SLĀV , we fear that this threatens the freedom of expression of our artists," a CAQ spokesperson said in a statement. "We have to be able to conduct these important societal debates in an atmosphere of calm and respect."Journal de Montréal columnist Josée Legault called Lepage "the most universalist artist in Quebec," expressing dismay that "these two very important plays" should […]
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