Charlotte Overvold drags fellow student Tiffany Ayalik by the hair during the stage fighting workshop at last year's Native Theatre School North. This year's program has dance, storytelling and film workshops. - NNSL file photo
The Native Theatre School North is an outreach program of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto. Held in Yellowknife, the program attracts students from across the NWT and Nunavut. This year, co-founder Ben Nind has also received applications from Northern Alberta and the Yukon.
"Any theatre form is about finding your own voice," said Nind.
"Here in the territories, we're always looking for ways for individuals to find their voice."
The program is open to people of aboriginal descent ages 17-99 and is taught by aboriginal and non-aboriginal men and women pursuing careers in professional theatre.
Actors Sid Bobb, Rene Bourque and Toby Mahler, singer/actor Andrea Menard and dancer Penny Couchie are a few of the confirmed instructors. Activities will include storytelling, acting, voice, movement and film work.
In the long term, Nind hopes the school will raise the profile of the performing arts in the territories, and make people in the North aware of potential careers in theatre.
"The seeds are only now being planted," he said.
Charlotte Overvold was a student at last year's theatre school and said she'd do it all over again in a second.
"It's really hard, really intensive, but what you got out of it was amazing," she said.
Classes run from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and the program is limited to 10 students.
Beyond the limit
Overvold enjoyed the close-knit camaraderie that developed due to the small class size, and she also credited the instructors with pushing her beyond what she thought were her limits.
"One time Ben brought in a cloth and put it on the stage. He lifted it up and made it into a woman and said 'You can give life to anything.'"
Overvold wants to apply at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre.
Students are responsible for travel costs to and from Yellowknife and the $500 registration fee, but accommodations and meals are provided by the school.
Nind encourages potential students with previous experience and interest in theatre to consult their band council or a cultural organization for fundraising help.
"Performing arts is another vehicle through which culture can be preserved and expressed," said Nind.
The school runs August 3-15 and applications are available at www.stuckinasnowbank.com, or by contacting Ben Nind at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre in Yellowknife at (867) 873-4950.