Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre-Media Centre
The Bridge: A Festival of Ideas



Theatre Matriarchs

Thursday, March 18 at 10:15am CDT

The women on this panel discussion have kicked down doors to tread the boards at theatres across Turtle Island (also known as North America). The moderator for Theatre Matriarchs is Frances Koncan. Her play Women of the Fur Trade was performed at Royal MTC Warehouse last season. She is joined by some of her sheroes to talk about the struggles and triumphs of being Indigenous kwe in Canadian theatre: Columpa Bobb, Margo Kane, Monique Mojica and Tracey Nepinak!

Frances Koncan

Columpa Bobb, Margo Kane, Monique Mojica, Tracey Nepinak

From Script to Stage

Friday, March 19 at 10am CDT

Join award-winning playwright Ian Ross (fareWel) for a conversation with some of Canada’s most influential and thought-provoking playwrights. Kenneth T. Williams (Thunderstick), Kevin Loring (Where the Blood Mixes), Tara Beagan (Deer Woman) and Marie Clements (The Unnatural and Accidental Women) join Ian to talk about taking an idea and watching it grow from the page to the stage. Together they have written over 70 plays, have been the recipients of several prestigious awards and continue to add to the cultural conversation with their words.

Ian Ross

Tara Beagan, Marie Clements, Kevin Loring, Kenneth T. Williams

Dance Ogichidas

Saturday, March 20 at 10am CDT

Step into the world of Indigenous dance and find out what it takes to tell a story through movement. Their combination of skills have seen these movers and shakers perform on stages around the world. Moderator Sandra Laronde, an arts leader for three decades, is joined by Santee Smith, Founding and Managing Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre; Buffy Handel, founder of Aboriginal School of Dance; and Waawaate Fobister, a force of contemporary and traditional dance.

Sandra Laronde

Waawaate Fobister, Buffy Handel, Santee Smith

Acimowin (To tell story)

Sunday, March 21 at 10am CDT

Traditionally, the winter season was the time for story. But with book publishing, stories remain year-round and Indigenous storytellers are at an all-time high. So why are there so many books hitting the shelves now? Award-winning Winnipeg authors Katherena Vermette, David A. Robertson, Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Brett Huson join author and moderator Michael Hutchinson to share why they’re part of a growth in Indigenous literature, and why each of these authors picked up the pen to tell a story.

Michael Hutchinson

Brett Huson, David A. Robertson, Tasha Spillet-Sumner, Katherena Vermette

Click for festival schedule

Frances Koncan.jpgFRANCES KONCAN


Frances Koncan (she/they) is a mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene writer, director, and dramaturg based in Treaty 1 territory on the land currently known as Winnipeg. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she earned her MFA in Playwriting from the City University of New York Brooklyn College where she developed a passion for experimental theatre placed as an oppositional force within contemporary western culture, and for drinking very expensive cocktails. She is currently part of the 2021 cohort of the BIPOC Directing Fellowship ThisGen by WhyNot Theatre, the Associate Director of Outside the March’s upcoming show The Trojan Girls and is working on three play commissions. Twitter/Instagram: @franceskoncan

Columpa Bobb.jpgColumpa Bobb


Columpa Bobb has been a theatre practitioner for over 33 years now. She has worked across Canada and the globe. Her work has been seen in Brazil, India, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand. She is the founding Artistic Director of the Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship program as well as Urban Indigenous Theatre Company. Columpa is excited to be a part of this event.

Margo Kane.jpgMARGO KANE


Cree-Saulteaux Métis performing artist, Margo Kane is the Founder and Artistic Managing Director of Full Circle: First Nations Performance. For over 40 years she has been active as an actor, performing artist and community cultural worker. Her desire to share artistic performance that has meaning for her people is the catalyst for her extensive work, travels and consultation within Indigenous communities across Canada and abroad.  Moonlodge, her acclaimed one-woman show, an Indigenous Canadian classic, toured for over 10 years nationally and internationally. The Sydney Press (AU) during The Festival of the Dreaming praised it as being ‘in the top echelon of solo performance.’ She developed and runs the annual Talking Stick Festival celebrating its 20th Anniversary this coming year and numerous programs including Moccasin Trek: Arts on the Move!, Indian Acts and an Indigenous Ensemble Performing Arts Program in Vancouver. She has received numerous awards and honours including an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the Fraser Valley, the Order of Canada from the Governor General and, most recently, an International Citation of Merit from ISPA – International Society for the Performing Arts.



Monique (Guna and Rappahannock nations) is an Actor/Playwright. Dedicated to a theatrical practice as an act of healing, of reclaiming historical/cultural memory and of resistance. Spun from the family-
web of Spiderwoman Theater (NY), her theatrical practice embraces her artistic lineage through mining stories embedded in the body in connection to land and place. Monique taught Indigenous Theatre in theory, process and practice at Brown University, University of Illinois, Institute of American Indian Arts, McMaster University and is former co-director of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. She lectured on land-based embodied research and taught performance workshops throughout Canada, US, Latin America and Europe. Recent roles: Aunt Shadie in Marie Clements’ The Unnatural and Accidental Women, the inaugural production of the new Indigenous Theatre department at NAC, with the NAC Orchestra in the European tour I lost my Talk as part of the Life Reflected series, Izzie M.: The Alchemy of Enfreakment written by Monique with a diverse artistic collaborative team in Tara Beagan’s Honour Beat for TC. Upcoming: dramaturg for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Sken:en created by Santee Smith. Founder and Artistic Director of Chocolate Woman Collective.



Tracey’s roots go back at least 6 generations in the Peguis First Nation family photos. The daughter of a residential school survivor, Tracey knows firsthand, that the fallout of flawed ideologies imposed on children, can destroy families. Tracey found her theatre voice, quite by accident, when she stumbled onto Vancouver’s, Spirit Song Native Theatre School and enrolled as a student. Shortly after graduating the 9 month intensive program, Tracey moved home to Manitoba, and completed a BA Honours degree. Tracey has worked professionally since 1994. Recent theatre, film and directing credits include: Dori in Katharsis (PTE); Director of Songidèewin (Sarasvàti); Rose in Burden of Truth (Eagle Vision).

Ian Ross.jpgIAN ROSS


Ian Ross was born in McCreary, Manitoba. He calls the First Nation of Pinaymootang, the Métis community of Kinosota and the city of Winnipeg, home. His play, fareWel, won the Governor General’s Award for English Drama in 1997. The Third Colour, his most recent play received the Evie Award for Best New Play of 2019. His commentaries as Joe from Winnipeg on CBC radio and television, as well as NCI, were very popular. Ian has also been a drama instructor and educator for several years and currently heads the Pimootaywin Creators Circle at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. He continues to write and live in Winnipeg.

Tara Beagan.jpgTARA BEAGAN


Tara Beagan is a Ntlaka’pamux and Irish “Canadian” halfbreed. She is cofounder/codirector of ARTICLE 11 with Andy Moro. A11 has worked across Turtle Island, in Aotearoa, Australia and Scotland, and is based in Mohkinstsis (Calgary.) Beagan served as AD of Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto) from Feb 2011 to Dec 2013. She’s been in residence at Cahoots (Toronto), NEPA, the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), Berton House (Dawson City) and now at Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg.) Seven of her 32 plays are published. Two plays have received Dora nominations, with one win. In 2020 Honour Beat won the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award and Beagan the Siminovitch Prize for Drama, playwriting.

Marie Clements.jpgMARIE CLEMENTS


Marie has ignited her brand of artistry within a variety of mediums including film, TV, radio, and live performance. Her latest project, the feature drama Red Snow has won Most Popular Canadian Feature Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Best Canadian Feature Film at the Edmonton International Film Festival; earned nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film, and won the Best Director of a Feature at the 2019 American Indian Film Festival (AIFF) in San Francisco and Best Achievement in Film from the LA Skins Festival in Los Angeles. Red Snow has recently been nominated for 10 Leo Awards and her feature music documentary, The Road Forward, produced by the NFB, premiered at Hot Docs, opened the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival, closed the 2018 ImagineNATIVE Film Festival, receiving five Leo Awards including Best Production, Best Director, and Best Screenwriter.



Kevin is N’laka’pamux from the Lytton First Nation in British Columbia. He was appointed the inaugural Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre of Canada in 2017. He’s a graduate of Studio 58, Langara College’s Professional Theatre Training Program. He was an ensemble member and an instructor at Full Circle First Nations Performance: Ensemble Training Program. He’s an accomplished actor of the stage and screen as well as a voice actor for animation and narration. He’s also an award-winning playwright, and theatre director and the founding Artistic Director of Savage Production Society.

Kenneth Williams.jpgKENNETH T. WILLIAMS


Kenneth T. Williams’ professional path is a “guidance counselor’s nightmare.” He’s been a soldier, bartender, rock musician, and door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. As a journalist, he was a member of the very first news team for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Along the way, he’s had several plays produced on Canada’s stages and dramaturged many others from emerging playwrights. His newest plays, Paris SK, Miranda and The Herd, were presented in various media on the internet. He lives in Edmonton with his partner, Dr. Melissa Stoops, with their cats, Augustus and Drusilla, and is a professor in the Department of Drama at the University of Alberta. He is a member of the George Gordon First Nation in Treaty 4 territory.



A highly accomplished arts leader, creator, and innovator, Sandra Laronde (Misko Kizhigoo Migizii Kwe) which means “Red Sky Eagle Woman” in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) language, has over 27 years of experience in the arts and culture sector. She is from the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water) in Temagami, northern Ontario. Sandra Laronde plays a pivotal role in the ongoing Indigenous cultural resurgence in Canada. For close to three decades, she has created an extraordinary body of work and inspired programming with collaborators that has led to powerful, transformational arts experiences elevating the ecology of arts and culture in this country while strengthening the international presence of Indigenous arts. Sandra founded Red Sky Performance in 2000, a leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and worldwide. Their world stage line-up includes the Venice Biennale, two Cultural Olympiads (Beijing and Vancouver), Jacob’s Pillow, World Expo Shanghai, among others. At the same time, she remains committed on a grassroots level in urban, rural, and reserve communities across Turtle Island.For nine robust years, Sandra is the former Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity from 2007 – 2016.

Waawaate-Fobister.jpgWAAWAATE FOBISTER


Waawaate Fobister is an actor, dancer, playwright, choreographer, instructor and a producer, currently residing in Winnipeg. A proud Anishnaabe from Grassy Narrows First Nation. A recipient of two Dora awards for outstanding actor and play for Agokwe, Humber College outstanding actor, Mark S. Bonham Centre award from University of Toronto for their advocacy and public knowledge in sexual diversity. Waawaate also has many nominations, including Ontario Premiers’ Award, K.M Hunter Award and Sterling Award – Edmonton. Waawaate trained and studied Theatre Arts – Performance at Humber College, Indigenous Dance at Banff Centre for the Arts, Summer School Intensives at Toronto Dance Theatre, Intensives at Centre for Indigenous Theatre and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Waawaate has performed in many major theatre companies across Canada and their work and research has taken them to many places as an artist, including Japan, UK, US, and many coasts across Turtle Island. Currently, they are busy, teaching at Manitoba Theatre for Young people, is commissioned to write a 10-min play set to perform at the Human Rights Museum, and is the Curator, Indigenous Programming for the Kick & Push Festival. While the world is at a standstill, Waawaate has a couple new works that are brewing and is very excited to share with you. Stay tuned!

Buffy Handel.jpgBUFFY HANDEL


Buffy Handel is a successful award-winning entrepreneur, artist, choreographer, designer, athlete, educator, author and speaker whose vision is strong in purpose. She is the founder of the Aboriginal School of Dance and has been recognized for her unique approach to the arts and culture. She has mentored thousands of youth throughout the years based on the theory of applying Native American traditions to mainstream mannerisms. She has partnered with the Contemporary School of Dance to deliver new choreography during the Rite of Spring while performing live alongside the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra a total of three times. Buffy has many personalized seminars, workshops and presentations which are educational and inspirational. She has 25 years experience in the business world and can conceptualize the balance on how one can have a personal and professional life connected without fusing the two together. With sold out productions such as Te’pahkop and Niniim’iwe, Buffy’s ability to mentor youth, create musical compositions, design regalia with props and create business partnerships has lead her to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Metal and Woman of Distinction Award. She takes great pride volunteering as the First Nation Pavilion Coordinator for a seven-day festival which has scored a 5.95/6 in the professional deliver catering to 48,000 people.

Santee-Smith.jpgSANTEE SMITH


Santee Smith (Tekaronhiahkwa) is a multidisciplinary artist and producer from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River. She trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, completed Physical Education and Psychology degrees from McMaster University and an MA in Dance from York University. Santee premiered her inaugural work Kaha:wi in 2004 and later founded Kaha:wi Dance Theatre which has grown into an internationally renowned company. Her body of work includes 14 productions and numerous short works, collaborations and commissions for stage and TV. She is a sought-after teacher and speaker on Indigenous performance and culture. Through embodied storytelling, performance and designing her work speaks to Indigenous identity and continuance. Smith is the 19th Chancellor of McMaster University., @kahawidance, @santeesmith

Michael-Hutchinson.jpgMICHAEL HUTCHINSON

Acimowin (To tell story) – MODERATOR

Michael Hutchinson is a citizen of the Misipawistik Cree Nation in Treaty 5 territory, north of Winnipeg. As a young adult, he worked as a bartender, a caterer for rock concerts and movie shoots, and, eventually, as a print reporter for publications such as The Calgary Straight and Aboriginal Times. After being headhunted by the Indian Claims Commission, Michael moved from journalism to the communications side of the desk and worked for the ICC in Ottawa as a writer. He returned to his home province to start a family. Since then, he has worked as the Director of Communications for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and as a project manager for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, where he helped create the “We are all treaty people” campaign. Over seven years ago, he made mini- documentaries for the first season of APTN Investigates. Then became host of APTN National News and produced APTN’s sit-down interview show, Face to Face, and APTN’s version of Politically Incorrect, The Laughing Drum. After leaving APTN to return to communications, Michael worked for advocacy organizations like the Assembly of First Nations and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. He is currently a co-host on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg. Michaels greatest accomplishments are his two lovely daughters.


Acimowin (To tell story) – PANELIST

Hetxw’ms Gyetxw, also known as Brett D. Huson (he/him/his), is from the Gitxsan Nation of the Northwest Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Growing up in this strong matrilineal society, Brett developed a passion for the culture, land, and politics of his people, and a desire to share their knowledge and stories. Brett has worked in the film and television industry for over 13 years and is also a volunteer board member for such organizations as Ka Ni Kanichihk and sakihiwe Festival. The award winning series Mothers of Xsan is Brett’s first series of books and part of a larger vision he has in sharing the worlds of the Gitxsan Nation. As Brett continues creating new art and working on new books, he is also working with the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg to connect science and Indigenous Knowledges. With the support of his wife Jeri and their children Warren and Ruby, Brett endeavours to continue sharing stories with his writing, artwork and photography.

David-Robertson.jpgDavID A. Robertson

Acimowin (To tell story) – PANELIST

David A. Robertson is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor Generals Literary Award. The Barren Grounds, the first book in the middle-grade The Misewa Saga series, received a starred review from Kirkus and was a Kirkus and Quill & Quire best middle-grade book of 2020, as well as a USBBY and Texas Lone Star selection, and is shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award. His memoir, Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory, also came out in 2020. It was a Globe and Mail top 100 Book of the Year, a Quill & Quire Book of the Year, and a Maclean’s 20 Books You Need to Read this Winter selection. A sought-after speaker and educator, Dave is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.

Tasha Spillet-Sumner.jpgTasha SpilleTt-Sumner

Acimowin (To tell story) – PANELIST

Tasha Spillett-Sumner (she/her) draws her strength from both her Cree & Trinidadian bloodlines. She is a new mother, a celebrated educator, author, poet and emerging scholar. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community-led work that centres land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. In her work as a doctoral candidate, she is weaving together her cultural identity, and commitment to community to produce a body of research that amplifies Indigenous women’s demands for justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People, and serves as a continuation of the resistance against the assault of colonialism.

Katherena Vermette.jpgKatherena Vermette

Acimowin (To tell story) – PANELIST

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses’ Company) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her novel, The Break (House of Anansi) was a bestseller in Canada and won multiple awards and nominations. She is also the author of the picture book The Girl and The Wolf (Theytus), the graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo (Highwater Press), and co-wrote and co-directed the Canadian Screen Award-winning short doc, this river (NFB). Vermette lives with her family in a cranky old house within skipping distance of the temperamental Red River.


Stay in the loop!

Sign up now!