Performance-workshop: Truth and Reconciliation “The Offering”

October 14, 15, 16 | Workshop open to the public

During the Integrating Knowledges Summit, three actors from Indigenous theatre communities (Six Nations of the Grand, Toronto, Saskatoon) will work with four UWaterloo Theatre and Performance students in the Theatre of the Arts. Using performance practices, they will explore the dimensions and challenges of “truth and reconciliation.” 

Actors: Bruce Sinclair, PJ Prudat, Falen Johnson. Waterloo Theatre and Performance students: Brooke Barnes, Zac Gungl, Nivan ElSeweify, Alexandra Porter. Facilitator: Spy Dénommé-Welch. 


Falen Johnson is Mohawk and Tuscarora from Six Nations Reserve. She is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School. Theatre credits include, The Place Between for Cheyikwe Performance and Native Earth Performing Arts, The Only Good Indian… with Turtle Gals, The Triple Truth, Savage, Strong Medicine, Death of a Chief, and A Very Polite Genocide with Native Earth. Most recently Falen was in The Ecstasy of Rita Joe for Western Canada Theatre and the N.A.C. Her first play, Salt Baby, was produced by Native Earth at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2015.

Bruce Sinclair is a Metis artist originally from Meadow Lake/The Battlefords, Saskatchewan. He has worked in professional and community theatre since 1986 when he was invited into a drama class at SUNTEP at the University of Saskatchewan. He has worked with Twenty-Fifth Theatre, Persephone Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, 4th Line Theatre, Waweyekisik Theatre, The Batoche Theatre Co. and recently with Undercurrents Theatre and Jumblies Theatre. Bruce has worked as an actor, director, playwright and producer for numerous First Nations and Metis theatre works on miskinahk ministik (Turtle Island) and abroad. He is striving to become fluent in nehiyawewin (Cree) and Michif. He has worked as a Theatre Officer at the Canada Council for the Arts for over a decade and teaches school on the rez and in the city. He currently is the Artistic Director of miyoteh performance  based at Big Island Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. miyoteh performance recently co-hosted mamawi keyokewin, a gathering of elder storytellers, artists and dreamers with The Crossing Theatre Co near Batoche, SK  August 2015. His current works include a collaboration with Indigenous, Jewish and Arabic artists entitled The Gift Of Life , a story based on teachings of elders vs the tragedy of suicide... ahki meyimo (do your best)

PJ Prudat was born in northern Saskatchewan in a snowstorm. She loves tacos, hats and poetry.  She is of Cree, Saulteaux, French, Scandinavian and proud, resilient Métis roots.  PJ was a member of the National Arts Centre 2015/16 Acting EnsemblePlaywright in Rez (NEPA 13/14), and a member of Factory Theatre’s NCRG 2014/15 writer’s unit.  Selected Acting Credits: Reckoning (Article 11), Moonlodge, (NAC), Twelfth Night (NAC), Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (NAC/Centaur/ BTW), Anne and Gilbert  (NAC), Like There is No Tomorrow (Architect Theatre), the title role in Antony and Cleopatra (SIR), A Soldier’s Tale (Signal Theatre), Tainted (Moyo Theatre), The Blue Planet (YPT), Café Daughter (Gwaandak), Salt Baby (NextStage), Medicine Boy (Summerworks), free as injuns (NEPA), Almighty Voice and His Wife (NEPA), Tombs of the Vanishing Indian (NEPA), and Copper Thunderbird (NAC/Magnetic North).  Upcoming:   Beaver (Storefront Theatre), The Orphan’s Dream (Title Role/Caravan Farm), Moonlodge (Urban Ink), Saint Joan (Understudy of Title Role/ Shaw Festival).  

PJ is honoured to be a part of this healing, story, art.  PJ’s dad, Joe Merasty, is a Residential School Survivor– his experience of more than twelve years in these Industrial ‘schools’ forever changed the course of his life.  When he was recently forced to dredge up his experience, over the course of five long years, the impact struck their family with the force of a tidal wave.  Because of the devastating aftermath and fallout of her dad’s inquiry, PJ wished to see a mandatory support system put in place for the survivors and their family members, suffering from PTSD from within this collective soul wound.  PJ is reminded on a daily basis of her mother’s strength and capacity for forgiveness, her love of storytelling and mostly, her friggin’ wonderful joie de vivre.  Kitatamihinâwâw.


Spy Dénommé-Welch is a Dora-nominated librettist/playwright, composer and producer of Anishnaabe descent, who works in theatre, opera, film and video, and plays the fiddle and guitar. He wrote and co-composed the Dora-nominated opera, Giiwedin, and is now completing his second full-length opera (with collaborator Catherine Magowan) with support from Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council. He is the winner of the Baroque Idol 2013 competition for his work Bike Rage, and also co-composer of Deux Poèmes Sur La Formation Des GlacesSpinDoctors for clarinet, violin, and piano, and Giizhiigookwe Falls To Earth. His work, Victorian Secrets, has also presented at Native Earth Performing Arts’ Weesageechak Begins To Dance Festival and at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre as part of Free Jane.

His work has been presented at festivals, theatres and conferences in Canada and internationally, and has been featured in The Music Scene and The Wholenote. He has made appearances on radio shows such as Alexa’s Oasis on Classical 96.3 FM, CBC’s Here and Now, Aboriginal Voices Radio, and Radio-Canada. He is a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Brock University.

UWaterloo Theatre and Performance students

Brooke Barnes

I come from the Niagara Region in the town of Fort Erie. Here, I deeply grew to appreciate the roots of Canada in elementary school through the curriculum, my community, and my childhood friend whom is native to six nations. Later, in high school, I learned of the history of Residential schools; it wasn’t until I began my undergraduate degree in Waterloo that I realized a majority of Canadians are unaware of the severity of this topic.

This Summit means a great deal to not only me, but to anyone who is connected to Canada. To bring the attention of our country’s past is to strengthen our present, and interconnect our future. 

Nivan ElSeweify

I am Nivan the second. The first Nivan is a biochemist who fell in love with an obstetrician. They produced 3 babies who love staring at the moon. To give us our best chance, they immigrated from Egypt to Canada; a difficult and long journey that required other migrations throughout Saudi Arabia and Scotland. It also required migrations of the heart. I had to learn how to leave without leaving myself behind. So I fell in love with stories. They showed me how to carry pieces of myself wherever I went. They taught me to experience other people without losing myself. My identity as an artist is an experiment which includes performance, language, theory and experience as tools to interact with, find, create, accept, subvert and become consumed and empowered by our stories, and the stories that don't belong to anyone. To expand these tools, I am working on an undergraduate degree in Theatre and Performance and English Literature. My academic inquiry is preoccupied with the construction and sustainability of systems, systematic injustice and the distributions of power. As an artist, an academic, and a neverending draft of a Nivan, I attempt to simultaneously question and believe in the worlds we create.

I am deeply interested and invested in this project because it invites a conversation we really need to have. Residential schools were fostered by an educational system largely still in place today. As people who live in or feel connected to Canada in any way, we are responsible to reexamine this country's history in order to reevaluate its present. As an actor, I have learnt how to become an internal spectator as I embody stories I might not fully understand and might not have experienced. To do that well, I need to listen. Because it is important that the story we choose to portray is one we have built together. So I come into this process completely open and receptive. This summit is an opportunity to learn so much about decolonizing spaces, minds and bodies. I'm also interested in learning how different groups of marginalized people can come together, learn from and about each other, empower each other and allow each other the support and space to heal. Most importantly for me, participating in this process provides a means to recognize and try to understand the oppressive damage of residential schools. But, it is also a means to acknowledge and celebrate what they failed to erase.

Zac Gungl

I am currently studying Theatre & Performance and Speech Communication with minors in English Language & Digital Arts Communication at the University of Waterloo in my final year. I have a desire for performance within a physical and site-specific concept, as well as exploring performance and communication through managerial and a multi-technical faceted approach. I am interested in broadening perspectives on an intercultural and social justice level of communication and I look forward to being able to take in multiple perspectives and collaborate with talented artistic creators in this workshop process. 

Alexandra Porter 

I am a fourth year student at the University of Waterloo studying theatre and performance. I grew up in Elmira where I had some opportunities to explore the arts but began focusing more on dance and theatre in highschool. I danced competitively for 5 years while participating in school plays as an actress, dancer, and choreographer. At the time I was also involved with an educational medieval festival as a tour guide, actress, and fighter, and continued that into my first two years of university. Within the university I have pursued performance through the main stage productions, text and movement classes, choir, and I have volunteered for projects outside my classes whenever I had the opportunity. 

I am very interested in using performance to bridge the gaps between individuals, whether they are already best friends and neighbors, or strangers a world apart. We connect through the most basic human emotions and desires and I believe through performance we can learn to understand, accept, and support one another no matter our differences. 

I was very intrigued when I first heard about this project simply because it gave me an opportunity to learn about an issue that has affected so many people. Until I heard about the summit I had very little knowledge about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but as I began researching I knew that a simple answer about what exactly it was would not be good enough. My personal goal is to learn as much as possible and be open to every individual I have the opportunity to meet and work with so that I can then pass on what I have learned and be a stronger ally to promote change within our communities. I hope through this project that we are able to educate more people on this issue and begin their process of questioning how we connect with different cultures and how in the future we can work together to educate and share and celebrate our differences.