Robert Lepage cancels Kanata display after co-producers withdraw toughen


Quebec director Robert Lepage’s new theatre production has been cancelled.

The decision to cancel Kanata, a show that explores Canada’s settler history, comes after some of the North American co-producers withdrew from the project, Lepage’s production company, Ex Machina, said in a statement Thursday morning.

Indigenous leaders raised concerns this month about the lack of Indigenous artists in the play, which was meant to be staged at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris in December.

“Without their financial support, we are unable to finish creating Kanata with Théâtre du Soleil. Therefore, we are putting an end to the project,” the statement reads.

‘Hearing other people tell our stories’

A group of Indigenous writers, actors and community activists released an open letter criticizing the production, saying they were tired “of hearing other people tell our stories.”

They said they wanted to see Indigenous performers included in the show. 

In response to the letter, Indigenous activists met with Lepage and Ariane Mnouchkine, whose Paris-based theatre company was putting on the play, last week to discuss their concerns.

Some of the activists emerged from the meeting saying Lepage had done little to address the issues, however.

Nakuset, the executive director of Montreal’s Native Women’s Shelter, who attended the meeting with Lepage last week, said she welcomed the cancellation.

While Lepage’s team said the decision was made because  financial backers withdrew, Nakuset said that was good enough.

“I’m thrilled that somebody got it. That’s what we wanted. We wanted someone’s light bulb to go off.… Apparently it wasn’t Robert Lepage’s team, but the end result is we don’t have to worry about this play damaging our history,” she told CBC News.

“And maybe there’s an opportunity in the future to work with him, where we are truly working with him.”

In its statement , Ex Machina said a discussion about cultural appropriation needs take place.

“Beyond this troubling situation, sooner or later we will need to try to understand — calmly and together — what cultural appropriation and the right to free artistic expression fundamentally are.”

In its statement, Lepage’s production company said a conversation needs to be held about the meaning of cultural appropriation. (Christian Côté/Radio-Canada)

Earlier Lepage production dropped from Jazz Fest

The cancellation comes after another Lepage production, SLĀV, was dropped by the Montreal International Jazz Festival after being accused of cultural appropriation.

That show, performed by singer Betty Bonifassi and directed by Lepage, both of whom are white, featured African-American slave songs.

Ex Machina said it plans to meet with critics of SLĀV this fall.

The show will be staged in other Quebec cities later this year.


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