HIGH PERFORMANCE RODEO 2014: AGOKWE

LOVE AND DESIRE IN A FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITY

Mike is a hockey player and Jake is a dancer. The boys fall in love, but the community of the reserve proves a hostile environment for their love. Explored through dance, movement and traditional storytelling, playwright Waawaate Fobister takes events from his own life to create a story that is both compelling and visually stunning.

Agokwe_2012-4-mThe 23-year-old Ojibwa playwright keeps a tight grasp on the modern world in which he grew up while still existing within the First Nations storytelling tradition. It is very much a young person’s story of passion and exploration. The story of new love is universal, and has been explored at many times by many writers, but Agokwe presents a very different spin on things. This love story is intertwined with stories from the narrator, Nanabush, the trickster and ever-present character who presides over the events of the play.

The subject matter is the source of this piece’s complexity. Many First Nations cultures traditionally celebrate non-heteronormative sexual expressions. For example, two-spirited people, expressing both male and female identities, are seen as having a balance within them. Fobister explores the conflict between the traditional spiritual view of homosexuality and the reality of how people on reservations today treat LGBTQ folk amongst them. It’s a difficult but important story to tell and it is deftly handled by Fobister’s writing and performance.

A presentation of One Yellow Rabbit, Agokwe is a piece of theatrical storytelling that reflects a seldom-heard part of the Canadian First Nation cultural narrative. It isn’t an easy tale to tell, though it is certainly worth hearing.

Pair this play with Club Carousel: A Cabaret Celebration of Calgary’s Gay History and get both plays for $50. Head to the EPCOR Centre Box Office in person or call (403) 294-9494 for full details.

Jan. 30-Feb. 1. Engineered Air Theatre.

By Geneviève Dale
Photo: Marc J. Chalifoux

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