“It’s like Everything Everywhere All At Once: Theatre Version”
Courtesy of Native Earth Performing Arts
Early in the pandemic, I spoke with artist Joelle Peters when I was still writing for OnStage Blog about how she was faring in 2020 when we all wondered what was to become of the state of the performing arts. Like all of us, she felt this need for connection through one of the darkest moments that each of us has experienced.
You can read Peters’ first profile here:
Fast forward three years and Joelle Peters is now one very busy individual who has established many connections since 2020. You can read about her background and training on the Native Earth Performing Arts website: www.nativeearth.ca.
She’s excited yet quite overwhelmed about the return to live theatre even though we are still in Covid’s embrace. In her words: “It’s like Everything Everywhere All At Once: Theatre Version”
What has changed for Joelle since 2020?
She is the Interim Artistic Director for Native Earth Performing Arts making bigger decisions than she was previously. With all this change and adjustment in her career, she’s trying her best not to burn out and also find some time to enjoy the opportunities coming up.
One of these opportunities is her script 'Niizh' which opens at the Aki Studio this week. ‘Niizh’ is a coming-of-age comedy. Set on a reserve in Southwestern Ontario, the play follows the youngest of the ‘Little’ family, Lenna Little, who prepares to leave home for the first time. Amid this, she meets Sam Thomas, who has returned to the reserve after many years away.
‘Niizh’ and Joelle have been on quite a journey with a lot of support.
The play began its germination at the Paprika Festival to Native Earth’s Animikiig Creator’s Unit, to the Indigenous Playwright’s Nest at the Banff Centre, a commission from the Blyth Festival and back to Native Earth for a sound workshop. Through the pandemic, a lot of work that went into the script midway, and later in the process, was done online. She felt this was probably the biggest challenge because ‘Niizh’ is a comedy with bits of movement and tons of props. If something landed weird or awkward in a Zoom reading automatically made Joelle feel she might have been a bad playwright and if the script would be ready for an audience.
But thanks to what Joelle calls ‘wonderful’ actors in the rehearsal hall, ‘Niizh’ persevered. The response of the first-read audience was so warm and a huge sigh of relief for her and the story.
What messages does she hope audiences will take away from ‘Niizh’?:
“I’d like the play to remind audiences that it’s okay not to have everything figured out as we are all on our own journey. We can put some big expectations and be kind of hard on ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be that way! “
‘Niizh’ has been a big reminder for Joelle of how intense those feelings were as a young adult - getting ready to go off to college, and how big the world felt at the time. Anything was possible back then. It was all new, scary, and exciting.
I concluded our email conversation on what’s next for Joelle once ‘Niizh’ completes its run at Aki Studio.
She will be off to shoot a television commitment and then will jump back into some Artistic Director responsibilities for Native Earth. And after that, she’s off to make her Stratford Festival debut in ‘Women of the Fur Trade’.
Joelle knows she has a fair amount of juggling artistic responsibilities, but this is the work that she is most excited about. For her, that’s one of the most important goals of life in the theatre.
To learn more about Native Earth Performing Arts and to purchase tickets online for ‘Niizh’ visit: www.nativeearth.ca.