Three Kohkoms return for Rez Christmas
- Andréa Ledding | December 14, 2021
The three kohkoms of Keewitinohk are back this December with more hilarity, thanks to Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre’s annual Rez Christmas production, written by Curtis Peeteetuce.
“This play is called Mekiwin - the Gift,” explains Peeteetuce. “One of the themes is loneliness and being an Elder, that’s what I wanted to try and incorporate into this play.”
Peeteetuce has written nine other plays in the series - he always begins with the title, but says nobody ever remembers the titles. One of the things he loves is people will say, “the play where,” and describe a moment that touched them or made them laugh: the plays are known for both.
“People can look forward to the Cree Kohkoms Three as superheroes in this play,” Peeteetuce said, adding the characters begin to write themselves. “Like one year I watched one of the plays and Sihkos said something about the youth of today, and I went wow she’s starting to write her own lines all of a sudden!”
Claire, Zula and Sihkos are the three kohkoms, and originally were played by men - but this year Wanita Singing Bird and Aaron-Marie Nepoose play Sihkos and Zula, while Dalton Lightfoot cross-dresses as Claire. Shawn Cuthand rounds out the cast: characters play multiple roles, requiring lightning-fast costume changes.
“I think what I really love too is they are stories of here - these are not stories that come from any part of Canada or Europe or classical mainstream theatre - they are Cree stories right here in our homelands and that belly laughter is such good medicine,” Peeteetuce said, adding that places like Little Pine and northern communities have begun to stage the plays, and he is glad to freely provide the scripts. “I want to see more of that. Let’s get these stories out there! I want these stories from here to continue to be performed here, by other communities around here.”
Last year the theatre company created a YouTube kohkom channel when there was no live theatre. This year marks 20 years of the kohkoms.
Peeteetuce says he also has firm script ideas for plays 11 and 12, but has yet to write them.
“There’s a path, there’s a journey, and what will be fun is to have the Twelve Plays of Christmas,” Peeteetuce says. He has, for now, retired from directing and acting because he is currently a student support worker at E.D. Feehan, which he loves.
“I have 20 years of stage experience and work to help me do that. The first focus is work, but the seed is there.”
Director Danny Knight says the cast is amazing and has much to offer. Shawn Cuthand, who is relatively new to performing as an actor, brings stand-up comedian experience.
“I’ve been a fan of the GTNT plays for many years but this is the first time I’ve been involved,” Cuthand said. “This is my first foray into theatre. I’m really excited to get this show in front of audiences.”
Dalton Lightfoot says this is his fifth year with the GTNT Christmas show and has never done the same show twice.
“It’s really cool to be able to relive these characters and build on them, but put them in different situations,” Lightfoot says, adding he just builds upon what he has learned. “Claire has different motivations in this play, it’s really fun and interesting to portray these characters in a different setting and in a different place than they previously were in other plays.”
Nepoose loves seeing theatres open again. This is her third GTNT Christmas show.
“Having this script coming alive to us is a magical experience,” Nepoose said. “I played Zula in the first show I was in... she’s very challenging, but I’m the oldest of the kohkoms so I get to have more leeway and fun, and how cranky I can be. It’s fun to play a grumpy person.”
Bird echoes how much fun being in the play is, and says audiences can expect to have to wear Depends, they’ll be laughing so hard.
The play runs December 15th to 19th at the Broadway Theatre, with matinees, school and evening shows.