The Power of theatre in Indigenous Communities

February 29, 2012 - 1:41am

Vancouver Island University professors Eliza Gardiner (Theatre Studies) and Laura Cranmer (First Nations Studies) focus on the power of Indigenous performance traditions, both globally and locally, in a VIU Arts and Humanities Colloquium presentation Friday, March 9.

The presentation and discussion, which begins at 10 am in the Malaspina Theatre on the Nanaimo campus, addresses the question: Why do colonizing powers often insist on suppressing the cultural expressions of the peoples whose territories are being invaded?

The presenters focus on Canadian history with another question: What did the state see as the threat in the potlatch performance traditions?

The Canadian state, heavily influenced by missionaries and Indian Agents, attempted to suppress the potlatch practised along the entire Northwest Coast. However, this attempt was a failure and the potlatch traditions continue today.

In the history of the performing arts, government suppression of theatre has posed a consistent threat to production themes and performance styles.

In the evolution of the Western European theatre tradition, which finds its roots in the much celebrated tragedies and comedies of the ancient Greeks, power wielded over performance art by state authority has been a consistent force with which playwrights and performers have had to reckon.

Since the decline of the Roman Empire, the power of the state over the arts has created many challenges and much oppression of creative, sacred, educational, and community theatre.

This presentation will offer information on the suppressive acts of arts-domination in Europe and Canada with an overview of the western theatrical traditions; the discussion also includes how these global patterns of cultural suppression were applied to Indigenous peoples in Canada’s early colonial history.

Cranmer and Gardiner have teamed up to generate a presentation that focuses on the suppression of the performance arts, offering an opportunity to discuss such tactics as the restricting of classical plays in medieval Europe, the closing-down of theatres in Puritan England, the ostracizing of actors, the excluding of performing artists, and the general control by governments over artistic expression. At the same time, attention will be paid to the durability of the ongoing practice of Indigenous performances.

Event details:

What: Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series presentation “The Power of Theatre in Indigenous Communities”

When: 10 am to noon (approximately), Friday, March 9

Where: Malaspina Theatre, Nanaimo campus

Admission: Free and open to the public


Tags: In the Community