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The Centre for Indigenous Theatre [CIT] held its second annual four-week summer intensive program on the Wapehton Dakota First Nation this past summer. To cap off the month-long educational experience, the students in the program put together a dramatic collective creation entitled "Voices of Spirit". The show was performed first in an abbreviated from at Wanuskewin Heritage Park outside of Saskatoon on the afternoon of 27th, 2001, and then in two evening performances at the Wapehton Communiplex on the 27th and 28th.
Carol Greyeyes, the artistic director of both the show and the school, said of the end product, "I'm just thrilled. This has been quite an exceptional year and everything's cooperated with us, even the weather. The students have been very prolific in all their writing and very creative, and it was just an amazing group of people that came together and produced just a stellar show."
The program saw the participating students learn about writing, traditional and contemporary dancing, traditional and contemporary singing, and improvisational acting. Another part of the program involved all of the students living together on the Wapehton reserve, about 20 minutes north of Prince Albert.
Although this year did see three young people from Wapehton take part in the school, the class proved to be quite a cross-section of the First Nations from all across Canada with varying backgrounds.
Candice Sanderson, one of the Wapehton students in the program, said the program was pretty tiring "I've been in there from nine in the morning until sometimes eleven o'clock at night. At first, it was lonely for me, because I've got a family at home, and I wasn't able to see them all day, but then I got used to it, and I got used to it."
Sanderson's interest in this program was incited by her sister attending the two-year program offered by CIT in Toronto.
Sanderson said of her sister, "Before she started, she was really quiet, and it seemed like she was bored all the time, and than after the program, she was really outspoken."
Cherish Blood, from the Blood Reserve near Standoff, Alberta, was one of the students at this year's school. Although she does have a background in performing as a standup comedian, Blood wanted to learn about the other side of performing.
"One of the main things I have learned here is how to prepare yourself before going out on stage. That, and also all the discipline and hard work that goes into preparing a show."
Bobbilee Copeland, from Lillouet, B.C, is studying Drama at university, and hopes to one day earn her Ph. D. so she can also teach at the university level. She also dreams of becoming a film actress as well, and says of her experience, "It's definitely a learning experience. Learning how to live with people for one month, that you don't even know, is also a big part of that. You're with them 24-7. I found myself, when I came here, and a lot of people did healing. A lot of people did growing, and it's a lot of fun."
Their plans for next year's edition of the school are already underway. The class next year will also include a couple of Aborigines from Australia attending as students - that is, if they can find the funding to make the trip to Canada.