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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

One More Time

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday December 11, 05:29 pm
SNTC’s wildly successful Rez Christmas series comes to an end


Runs to Saturday 20

Studio 914 (914 20thSt. W)

The final production of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company’s Rez Christmas Series is going to be a real sweetheart of a show. “Nicimos” (pronounced NEE-CHEE-MOOSE) is the affectionate Cree word for sweetie or lover, and it’s also the title of the last play in an extremely successful series that’s spanned 10 installments over 13 years.

Curtis Peeteetuce has been the main playwright, writer and director for the Rez Christmas series — which offers a yearly peek into the lives of reserve members of the fictional community of Kiwetinohk — since the beginning. It’s been a labour of love right from the start, he says.

“It started in 2001 with a collective of writers and numerous hours of hard work,” says Peeteetuce, who’s also the artistic director of SNTC. “Right before we were set to start rehearsals [for that first production], our main document was lost on a computer that crashed. I volunteered to rewrite it, and it just grew from there.”

Throughout its run, the Rez Christmas series has focused its satirical gaze on the lives of three kohkums — Clare Bear, Zula Merasty and Sihkos Sinclare — who are elders in the community. The audience has witnessed their struggles, triumphs and family ties, all served up with a ton of laughs.

Nicimossees the three ladies all dealing with their own different quandaries: Zula decides to move away, her friend Sihkos winds up behind bars, and Clare gets engaged. Peeteetuce says that playgoers can expect a lot of antics, many ups and downs and what he feels is a fitting wrap-up to a series that has in many ways transformed SNTC.

“These shows have really helped anchor SNTC into the arts community,” he says. “We strive every year to emulate the world of a First Nations region. Christmas isn’t always a pleasant time of year for aboriginal people ‘on the rez,’ whether they’re dealing with alcoholism, depression, or desolation. We try to remove the stigma by confronting it head-on, while using comedy and highlighting an overall theme of love and support.”

Peeteetuce says the cast of this year’s production — Dakota Hebert, Dalton Lightfoot, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, and Cory Dallas Standing — have all really fallen into their characters.

“We’ve spent a lot of time reviewing and discussing the material,” he says. “We have First Nations actors who really identify with reserves, either thanks to their own history or by being from a town with a high First Nations population. They’ve really done their research. It’s not an easy role to play an elderly person, either — they’re all skilled at their craft, and the audience is in for a treat.”

The play started its first run — a touring show that visited schools in various locations across the province — on Nov. 24, and Peeteetuce is overjoyed by the reception so far.

“The feedback from the shows we have done so far has been wonderful,” he says. “While it deals with matters that are serious, it’s a comedy, and people have really gotten into it.

“I think the best thing that someone has told me throughout this entire process is that although the play deals with sometimes serious topics, it has made them belly-laugh. And you need that — you need the belly laugh. It’s so encouraging to hear that coming from the audience.”

The fact that Nicimoswill be the last entry in the series has sparked a lot of bittersweet emotion at SNTC, says Peeteetuce.

“While it’s been an amazing run, it will be nice in a way to move onto new ventures with SNTC,” he says. “At the end of the day, the plays have been a blessing to my development as an artist, and a true honour to share with the community.”

Along the way, he’s had people come up to him and say that they’ve been to every single Christmas show, and many of the other SNTC productions, thanks to the success of the holiday show.

“That brings a tear to my eye,” he says. “I’ve had people say they couldn’t wait to come back. It’s so nice to know you can connect with people in such an honest way.”

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