Co-production with Akpik Theatre
A Cree Tragedy by Reneltta Arluk, from an idea of Owen Morris', inspired by his mother Rose Dillon’s tellings of his kokom Maryanne Dillon’s Cree stories.
Westbury Theatre, November 23rd-26th, 2017
Pawâkan Macbeth was 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 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.
Cast & Creative
Directed by: Mark Henderson & Barry Bilinsky.
Set and Props Design: David Skelton
Costume Designer: Logan Martin
Lighting Design: Kerem Çetinel
Sound Design: Lief Ingerbertsen.
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.
Reneltta Arluk on the creation of Pawâkan Macbeth:
“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?”
Owen Morris, English Teacher, Chief Napeweaw School, Frog Lake Nation:
“We Cree have a legend of the Wihtiko; 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 Wihtiko and Macbeth. Macbeth relates to many themes that are prevalent in Cree legends: greed, loyalty, love, horror, and balance."
Pawakân Macbeth took its central inspiration form an idea by Owen Morris. Growing up in Onion Lake, Morris was inspired by his kokom Maryanne Dillon's stories of the Cree Cannibal Spirit, as told to him by his mother, Rose Dillon. He drew on these to teach Macbeth to High School English students at Chief Napeweaw School, Frog Lake First Nation. When Theatre Prospero was coming to work with the students at that school with a Cree Shakepseare residency in early 2015, Morris suggested that it centre on Macbeth as Cannibal Spirit. After that, Arluk, who led the residency, began to create a professional Cannibal Spirit Macbeth, and over two years she wrote the play, with dramaturgical support and workshops provided by Theatre Prospero.
Inspired by these ideas and stories shared by other Cree Elders in Frog Lake First Nation, Arluk 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. 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, framed and prodded by strange tricksters that lie like truth.
During the rehearsal period for this production, the cast and creative team of Pawâkan Macbeth visited communities in Plains Cree Territory to share sections of the play, and hear from Elders and other community members on the play and protocol, before performing a sold-out Edmonton Presentation in late November, 2017 at the ATB Financial Arts Barns.