Oct. 24, 2012 - Issue #888: Winter Guide 2012
Directed by Ed Roy
Catalyst Theatre, $15 – $25
Agokwe (pronounced a-go-kway) is the Ojibwe word meaning two-spirited, or, in a quite literal translation, "within the man there is a woman." Agokwe the play, based on the life of its creator/performer, Waawaate Fobister, follows such a person growing up on the reserve, young and feeling those first sparkling pangs of love with a boy despite the homophobic bent of the wider culture at hand, channeling that young love and hearbreak through a rarely explored cultural prism.
"It started off with Waawaate having a couple of monologues that he began with," explains director Ed Roy, on speakerphone alongside Fobister from Toronto. "He had a couple of characters he was interested in exploring, and he knew he wanted to explore an aspect of his own life. So, in working together, I helped draw out the other characters that were lying in wait to help tell the story."
Though it's nestled in a cultural framework, the heart of its story has proven very capable of resonating beyond those cultural borders. The show first debuted back in 2008 to mass acclaim, eventually taking six Dora awards in Toronto in 2009. It's coming through Edmonton courtesy of Workshop West, on a tour spanning from Toronto to Whitehorse.
Fobister points out that he isn't the only aboriginal artist focusing around the idea of being two-spirited in his art: Kent Monkman, whose explorations inspired Fobister's own, as well as other poets and playwrights. They're trying to keep that cultural idea alive, while reviving a greater interest in the traditional side of where they came from.
"A lot of the culture has disappeared or is disappearing, so it was important for me to go back into it and try to revive it," Fobister explains. "That's what I do a lot of as an artist, an aboriginal artist, is to go back to the language and go back to the culture and work from there.
"For me, a lot of it's disappearing," he reiterates. "So it's important to me to try and bring it back. Our culture is who we are as people. I grew up on the reserve, and it's an identity. I want to make my identity stronger, and my people stronger." vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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