Katie Gilray, left, Alexandra Hicks and Ida Maidstone will perform ‘Nanaimo’s Got Talent’ at the Black Rabbit Kitchen as part of the Nanaimo Fringe Festival until Aug. 20. (Submitted photo)

Katie Gilray, left, Alexandra Hicks and Ida Maidstone will perform ‘Nanaimo’s Got Talent’ at the Black Rabbit Kitchen as part of the Nanaimo Fringe Festival until Aug. 20. (Submitted photo)

Nanaimo Fringe Festival explores personal and perspective-shifting stories

‘Reminders of ReconciliAction’ shows at Port Theatre, ‘Nanaimo’s Got Talent’ at Black Rabbit Kitchen

As the second week of Pacific Coast Stage Company’s 13th annual Nanaimo Fringe Festival continues this week, local and international stories will be presented at different downtown venues until the festival closes on Aug. 20.

Rory Keewatin, a transgender two-spirit Cree and Métis woman will share her production, Reminders of ReconciliAction, by incorporating as many senses as possible.

The Nanaimo Fringe Festival marks the fifth year Keewatin has told her incredibly personal story, having already staged it twice at the Victoria Fringe Festival as part of the Intrepid Theatre Group’s Indigenous artist program, with another planned for the 2024 festival.

Keewatin, who lives in Ladysmith, said the production was originally called Reminiscences of Reconciliation, but updated the name to reflect terminology that suggests meaningful action should be done for reconciliation rather than merely speaking about the wrongs of the past.

As noted on Keewatin’s website, she “traces her ‘reconciliaction’ work to following in the footsteps of her father, Wesley Lyle Keewatin Richards, a survivor of the ’60s scoop in Alberta and an activist-elder.”

The artist said the production explores interpersonal relations and mythology, from personal history and oral storytelling. There will be content that some audiences may find triggering or uncomfortable, including topics such as intergenerational trauma, sexual assault and beatings, which Keewatin said is integral to the truth of the story.

“I am pretty darn good about humour within the show as well,” she said. “People are going to definitely think a lot about it, but fortunately, I do come to grips with it with a surprising amount of humour.”

The show also uses smudge, which the artist said was not only chosen for its association to memory ties, but because she wanted to include as much Indigenous spirituality as she could.

“Drumming is a major part of Indigenous culture, and central to the show. I have a hand drum, a gift from my father for my 18th birthday, and it’s almost a heartbeat to the show itself,” she said.

Reminders of ReconciliAction will be staged at the Port Theatre on Aug. 15, 17-19, with various show times.

Also part of the Fringe Festival, a different type of storytelling will offer a perspective on reality versus dreamland.

Puppeteers Katie Gilray and Alexandra Hicks centre Nanaimo’s Got Talent, a Penny a Sketch production, on the adventures of a Raggedy Andy doll and the different characters he comes across.

The show follows the doll after he falls asleep watching TV and dreams that he enters through the television set into a game show that showcases different puppets and their talents.

Gilray said although the show is a family-friendly production, it includes cheeky jokes and humour for adult audiences.

“We fit in an odd category – basically we started off doing adult-only shows, but we are very kid-orientated … We sort of morphed into children’s shows, but also entertaining for adults,” she said.

Since audience interaction is their favourite thing to do, Gilray said they try to break the barrier between performer and show-goer by incorporating as much interaction as possible. Because of this, Gilray said the show will be a little bit different with each staging.

Gilray said she and Hicks started a Penny a Sketch as a hobby which quickly grew into a professional production over the years. However, just last year the puppeteers went to the Czech Republic where they learned how to make traditional wood puppets from scratch as well as performance training and manipulation.

Nanaimo’s Got Talent includes live music by Ida Maidstone and will be staged at Black Rabbit Kitchen Aug. 18-20 with various showtimes.

More information on what shows are playing during Nanaimo Fringe Festival can be found online at www.nanaimofringe.com.

READ MORE: Nanaimo Fringe Festival to tell diverse stories


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