New artists inspire Talking Stick Festival

By Tony Montague at Georgia Straight

Margo Kane feels that the wheel has come around, a cycle completed. For many years in the ’80s and ’90s the founder and director of the Talking Stick Festival—the only annual festival of aboriginal arts in Canada—toured relentlessly as a solo performer. So she’s particularly excited to see three one-person theatrical shows at this year’s event, which runs February 19 to March 3.

“This is the second year we’ve had theatre on our mainstage,” she tells the Straight. “More aboriginal theatre work is starting to tour. That’s a relief because I wanted more theatre, but it’s so hard when you only have small resources.”

Kane is best known for Moon Lodge, a work rooted in storytelling that also incorporates ritual, dance, and mime. Its international success led Kane to form her own theatre company, Full Circle, currently in its 20th-anniversary year. Her intention was not just to develop her own work, but to collaborate with other aboriginal artists.

“Touring a lot as a solo performer was lonely,” says Kane. “I established the company so I could have more people to train with, and to create work together. I really wanted to have a camaraderie in developing new things, to give healing inspiration for the youth.”

Out of this process grew Talking Stick. “The first one, in 2001, was just for a couple of nights,” Kane says of the inaugural Talking Stick Cabaret. “We did a call for artists to submit for spots of eight minutes max. Some of them were just coming out of community-level performances. We provided a director and help in making their work stage-ready. It was a mix of theatre, contemporary dance, poetry, and visual arts—a lovely night.”

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