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Emerging actresses from across the territory sought for new project
Play to explore female indigenous identity in the NWT

Emelie Peacock
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Emerging indigenous actresses from across the territory are invited to audition for an acting and play writing project with leading Northern actresses Reneltta Arluk and Tiffany Ayalik.

NNSL photograph

Reneltta Arluk, founder of Akpik Theatre, tells a story during the Open Sky Creative Society coffee house on March 7, 2015. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

Focused exclusively on female indigenous experience in the Northwest Territories, the project will pair two First Nations, Inuit or Métis actresses with a group of women who have had success both on and behind the stage. Women from the NWT are invited to audition on June 6 and 7 at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, or via video.

Organizers said being able to send in a video increases the accessibility of the arts to people in the communities.

Now a well-known actress across Canada and internationally, Arluk grew up in the North and had no access to to the arts until her late teens. If she had, she said she would have discovered her passion sooner, something she hopes this project can do for new actresses.

While an audition may seem intimidating, Arluk hopes women from any age and location in the territory are not discouraged by the idea of an audition.

"Don't think that you have to fit some sort of - in your head what you imagine to be what an audition is. Just memorize a piece of text or tell a story, like a storyteller. Don't be afraid to try it. There's no judging," she said.

Actresses can perform a play or tell a short story, either their own or someone else's work.

Director Micheline Chevrier would like the women to present themselves as who they are.

"I really want to see what the performer has to offer, both as a human being and as an artist. So I'm looking for an honest offering," Chevrier said. "I want to see what excites them and how they choose to handle the material."

The two chosen actresses will spend 10 days writing a play together with Arluk, Ayalik, Chevrier and dramaturge Yvette Nolan. The play will be inspired by the themes of identity, indigeneity and decolonization, as well as the "fierce" women behind the project.

"I think it's going to be very collaborative, so all of us will be co-writing together. So Tiffany and I have experience writing, and the other two women that will join us, we'll kind of mentor that. And then we'll all be acting in it," Arluk said.

Reneltta Arluk, founder of Akpik Theatre, tells a story during the Open Sky Creative Society coffee house on March 7, 2015. Shane Magee/NNSL photo Mentorship is a huge component of the project, and crucial to the development of an actor's career, according to Arluk. While the group has a lot of experience, the new actresses will participate on an equal footing in the project.

"It's about bringing whatever knowledge anybody has into the room and sharing it," Chevrier said. "It is an exchange, it's an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other."

For co-creator of the project Marie Coderre, the opportunity is about ensuring the arts are accessible to women from the territory looking to find a place on the stage.

"Because the arts is so limited in the North, having access to it is so difficult," she said.

After writing the play, the group will rehearse for a February 2018 show at the centre. The play will then tour with Chevrier's Montréal-based Imago Theatre during the 2018-19 season. Arluk also wants to have the play tour other parts of Canada with her company Akpik Theatre.

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