July 6, 2020

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Indigenous community welcomed in from the Fringe

As festival acknowledges Treaty 1, First Nations artists ply their trade

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/7/2018 (709 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For the first time in history, treaty is at the Fringe.

"I wish I could do more," says Captain Braggadocio, host of the Manitoba Fringe Theatre Festival’s mainstage event. "It’s a start to reconciliation."

KYLEE SINCLAIR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Buffalo Gals Drum Group performs at the Fringe festival free mainstage in Old Market Square this week. </p>

KYLEE SINCLAIR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Buffalo Gals Drum Group performs at the Fringe festival free mainstage in Old Market Square this week.

The festival is officially acknowledging it takes place on Treaty 1 territory.

In doing so, it joins other community organizations, such as the Winnipeg Jets and the University of Manitoba,that make similar acknowledgements.

The statement is shared twice every day, at noon and at 6 p.m.

For years, the festival has been around Indigenous people but had minimal Indigenous content. While playwrights such as Doug Nepinak and Yvette Nolan have had their plays staged with Indigenous performers, the community has, generally, been on the fringe of the festival.

Not anymore.

Local Anishinaabe-Slovenian playwright Frances Koncan has fostered her talents at the festival.

She won the Harry S. Rintoul award for best Manitoba play in 2016 and was runner-up for best New Play at this year’s festival competition for Women of the Fur Trade.

Koncan produced Woke Comedy Hour: Fringe Edition for this year’s festival, a play that features local female, non-binary, people of colour and Indigenous storytellers.

This year’s fringe lineup features three other Indigenous productions with Indigenous content. Two have been hits with audiences.

Whiteface is co-performed by Lady Vanessa Cardona and Todd Houseman and is about how perceptions and stereotypes affect society and identity.

Houseman, a Cree from Alberta, researched representations in western films, the headdress and teepee cultural appropriation every spring at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, and textbooks.

Rocko and Nakota: Tales from the Land is a one-man show written and performed by Anishinaabe writer and educator Josh Languedoc.

The play is a story about a grandfather building a relationship with his grandson in modern times.

In addition to the treaty acknowledgements, the Fringe free mainstage includes performances by the Buffalo Gals Drum Group.

Each show, featuring members of the group’s 50 performers, shares culture, traditions and stories.

Audiences even get to play drums and learn the songs.

This year’s festival is not just a celebration of theatre, but a site for reconciliation.

That’s something worth seeing.

Kylee Sinclair is a participant in the Youth Creative Employment Opportunities (CEO) program and spent a week at the Winnipeg Free Press learning how it operates. She is from Fisher River Cree Nation and is attending the University of Winnipeg this fall.

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