Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
“That’s some big boots to fill.”
So says Paula-Jean Prudat, who is taking on Margo Kane‘s iconic solo show Moonlodge on February 12 and 13 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Clearly, Kane has confidence that Ms Prudat can fill those boots with appropriate aplomb. After all, Moonlodge is a Canadian Aboriginal classic in theatre and synonymous with Kane herself: Ms Prudat becomes the only person other than Kane ever to perform it. That Ms Prudat assumes the role after the show’s 20-year hiatus adds to the enormity of this opportunity.
The significance is not lost on Ms Prudat: Margo Kane has “never had anyone else perform this powerful work. I’ve been gifted with some pretty great opportunities so far—but this one is particularly sweet.” In fact, she avers, “it may be the most challenging role I’ve tackled to date. To do so at the NAC…for that I am grateful and fired up to give it the best I’ve got.”
On the heels of her appearance in National Art Centre‘s recent production of Twelfth Night, Ms Prudat immediately began rehearsals for this “seminal” show, which has a special meaning for her: “Margo, an icon, a trailblazer in Indigenous Theatre, made an incredible and long lasting impression on me when I first worked with her—in 2007, during Copper Thunderbird at the NAC—my first pro show experience.” Still more impactful was Ms Prudat’s first exposure to Moonlodge — in “a rather intimidating course on Solo Performance, taught by Charlie Tomlinson.” The source of intimidation was the sheer scope of the challenge: “combating our own individual fear of having enough to say, finding a strong voice within, conveying to an audience a story worth listening to. And the first solo theatre piece we students were given, as an example, and my first introduction to her, was Margo Kane’s Moonlodge. It was a captivating and luminous work, of courage and life. And it was the first time I recognized, so completely, the vital story of an Indigenous artist.”
Wrestling with this text and this performance was a foundational experience: “It lives in my memory as a shining example of why we do the work we do.”
Foundational — and also transitional, it turns out. For Moonlodge marks Ms Prudat’s culminating experience as an NAC ensemble member. “How extraordinary it’s been,” she marvels, her thoughts and memories tumbling out in a flood, with a palpable energy. “It has been a life-changing and challenging 6 months, to do the work we have been doing. I’ll be suffering some serious post show-ensemble blues for sure—but what’s so amazing about the work we choose to do, is that we continue to find the work, to create the work that feeds us and our careers, and to constantly move forward, keep learning, keep asking questions, keep creating the work…” The endless possibilities give her momentary pause: “It’s the beginnings of something great—that’s how it’s felt all the way through, working with such tremendous artists—how lucky we are to continue to thrive on creating art and pursuing our craft, and honing our skills in order to move forward!”
Moonlodge will be performed on the NAC Fourth Theatre in partnership with undercurrents festival. It is also a celebratory piece, marking a monumental road forward into 2017, when the National Arts Centre will be opening a third theatre sector, the Indigenous Theatre. Ms Prudat is ecstatic: “It’s groundbreaking and so thrilling to imagine the work in store across this country and beyond for Indigenous Artists. That feels pretty tremendous to know that is in the works and on the National Stage.”
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What: Moonlodge, created by Margo Kane; performed by Paula-Jean Prudat; directed by Corey Payette
Who: Audiences 12 years and older
When: February 12 and 13, 2016
Where: NAC Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin Street, at Confederation Square, Ottawa, Ontario in partnership with undercurrents festival
© 2016 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya