Michelle Olson, “Heart of the Telling”
Olson’s article is written lucidly and kinetically. It is bold and
unrepentant. This efficient piece offers a real challenge to institutions,
funders, researchers, audiences and practitioners, as Olson implicates the
national theatre scene in a broader politics of settler-colonialism and within
histories of Indigenous creativity that precede decolonial resistance. As she
says, “The notion that the work we do as Indigenous artists is
counter-narrative is revealing in itself” (14). She offers us a
vision that is both ancient (stemming from Indigenous practices) and seemingly, radically new –for the theatrical old guard.
Olson convincingly notes how important it is to circulate Indigenous works, which refuse to tell “the colonizers’ bedtime story” (14), on main stages across Canada. She writes: “And no matter which direction Indigenous artists are going, we are always going against the current, pulling line and searching to find those old pathways. We know that this is the work: to recall, to reclaim, to trace back through those patterns in the landscape that are so deeply embedded in us. But the obviousness of the work to us does not change its magnitude, its difficulty or its necessity” (15). At the same time Olson points to alternative modes and spaces where research takes place: in somatic training; in spiritual praxis; in the humility to forget what we think “we know”; and in our capacity to extend ourselves to systems of thought and action “far beyond the walls of what we call theatre” (15-16).