GTNT play streaming free on Facebook
- Andréa Ledding | May 22, 2021
“Some of the most spiritually gifted people are those who are lost on the streets. They are the ones who can help all mankind,” says Wanita Singing Bird in her debut play Spirit World, premiering online May 21-23, 2021 at 7 pm Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre (GTNT).
Bird shared the process and challenge of writing a play based on the life of community leader Adele Cook, in an interview which has been posted on the YouTube channel of the CFCR program, Homelands. HYPERLINK "https://youtu.be/jeSKub1Dwgg" https://youtu.be/jeSKub1Dwgg
“When I first met Adele, we had an instant connection. I’m also a counselor in recovery and we shared a very common experience,” says Bird, adding that despite lives of drama and tribulation, they both found strength and healing in connecting to the land, Cree spirituality and, most of all, humour in hard times. “To be trusted with her story, it’s a precious thing and you don’t want to paint it all in a dark way.”
Cook approved of Bird’s approach, and loved the wise friend, Bird, created for her, based on everyone’s favourite friend and auntie, including many of Bird’s loved ones, now gone on.
“The characters experience some really heavy things but, they are also very loving, funny and creative people. I hope ultimately, it teaches us all a little more about healing and Native spirituality,” said Bird. “We’re very strong resilient people and that’s what Spirit World encompasses for Adele — she’s a very resilient Indigenous woman.”
From growing up on the trap line, to getting lost on the road of addiction and contracting HIV, to experiencing senseless violence, Cook overcame it all, becoming a community leader. GTNT partnered with Prairie Harm Reduction to seek a Cree woman who could write her story, and Artistic Director Jennifer Bishop reached out to Bird. Director Bruce Sinclair, who wrote the very first play for GTNT entitled “Mary of Patuanak,” back when it was still Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, says Bird’s script made him laugh and cry, which has been a common response.
“One of the very first realizations for me was the blending of the imagery of the street, mingling with the spirit world. And so this concept of how they flowed together was pretty incredible — all the way through was very strong spiritual words and actions and ceremony and dance and feelings,” said Sinclair. “Then when you juxtapose that with the street it was harsh, yet love was there, and anguish, and a little bit of hope, and miracles, and all of the things.”
The essence of the work is that the world we live in includes the spirit world, where people who have passed on from this life are still in communication with us, Sinclair said.
“It gave me great pleasure to add and strengthen and to help develop the characters through the actors as we went along,” said Sinclair, adding that he worked with an entirely female cast and crew from age 15 or 16 right up to kohkoms, including GTNT Circle of Voices alumnus April Rogers, who plays Adele, and loved it. “The iskwewak were beautiful to direct, a lot of humour, but a lot of seriousness.”
Bird hopes people will show up to the online shows to laugh and cry together as “there are messages everyone needs to hear.” The play will be broadcast free online on May 21 - 23, 2021 at 7pm on GTNT’s Facebook and YouTube ( HYPERLINK "http://www.gtnt.ca" www.gtnt.ca).