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Four characters in search of a play

Actors work without script in free-form Pond Inlet production

By JANE GEORGE

For the past month, Annabella Piugattuk has been in Pond Inlet working on an unusual theatre project, a play that has no script or set characters.

On March 10, that play and another short work featuring students from Pond Inlet will be performed for the public at Pond Inlet’s Sea Hall community centre.

Organized by a prize-winning Toronto theatre company called Theatrefront, the main production features two Inuit actors, Piugattuk and Lamechi Kadloo of Pond Inlet, as well as two actors from the South.

Instead of following a script, the actors develop ideas and transform them into scenes.

For Piugattuk, who is used to receiving a script and a role as an actress, the process of developing the play has been “nervewracking.”

Piugattuk, 24, played the role of Kanaalaq in the The Snow Walker. For her role in that film, Piugattuk received a best supporting actress nomination in the 2004 Genie awards.

Since starring in The Snow Walker, she moved to Vancouver. She is now studying in Prince George, B.C.

“I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I came here,” she said in an interview from Pond Inlet. “We had nothing to work with when we came here. But when we started working with each other everything just started to fall into place.”

Piugattuk said when the four actors start a new scene, they’re not certain what’s going to come out of an idea.

“It feels very different because you don’t have a character to work with right off the bat. You have to create a character for yourself. It’s really challenging,” she said.

One scene shows Kadloo questioning his role as an Inuk man. Piugattuk speaks about the same issue from the perspective of a young female.

Director Christopher Morris describes the play-in-progress as “a work of improvisation across cultures.”

Morris first came up to Pond Inlet to scope out work on this project in November 2003. He wanted to come to the community because of its long, dark period, which he thought might be an interesting point of departure for a theatrical work.

While there, Morris helped direct a play on drug and alcohol abuse and teamed up with Kadloo, who has also starred in John Houston’s films.

Then, Morris went back to Toronto and looked for money to pay for the Pond Inlet project. His theatre company has worked on similar productions in Bosnia and South Africa, but he said, “I thought we should be doing something in our own country.”

Four years later, when Nunavut’s department of culture, language and youth, Canadian North and Kenn Borek, among others, had come through with some assistance, Morris was able to get himself and the others to Pond Inlet and start on their production.

They arrived Feb. 16, but Pond Inlet already had full days of light, so the initial idea of using the dark as creative inspiration died.

“It was a big joke,” Morris said.

Instead, the actors ended up exploring aspects of their culture.

“If we had the umbrella of darkness, we would have done the same thing with the background of darkness,” Morris said.

The Pond Inlet production is the first stage of what will be an international work.

That’s because Morris plans to bring the actors and the play to Iceland where actors from Iceland will also contribute to the final work.

The goal there will be to craft a final production in English, Inuktitut and Icelandic, which will tour Nunavut, southern Canada and Iceland.

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