Four-day theatre workshop held in Hay River


Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Jasmine Norn, left, Payton Norn and Reneltta Arluk from Akpik Theatre sing as part of a theatre workshop held in Hay River from Oct. 25 to 29.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Jasmine Norn, left, Payton Norn and Reneltta Arluk from Akpik Theatre sing as part of a theatre workshop held in Hay River from Oct. 25 to 29.

Reneltta Arluk had some goals in taking a theatre workshop for young people to three communities in the NWT, including Hay River.

One goal was to help young people – aged 12 to 17 – find and develop their interests in the performing arts, such as theatre, spoken word and song.

“Then they can go and further pursue it,” Arluk said.

She and two other performers – singer Renee Benson from New York City and spoken word artist Zaccheus Jackson from Vancouver – visited Hay River from Oct. 25 to 29, following stops in Yellowknife and Fort Smith.

Arluk said another of her goals was to emphasize the importance of developing the performing arts in communities, noting most have a sports arena but not every location has a theatre.

“I would like to bring a consciousness to the community that if you invest in the arts, you’re investing into the voice of the youth, because we’re all storytellers and we all need to tell our own stories,” she said.

On Saturday night, seven young people attended the workshop at Diamond Jenness Secondary School. (The night before was a concert featuring Benson and Jackson.)

Among the young people at the workshop were 13-year-old Jasmine Norn and her 12-year-old cousin Payton Norn.

“I participated because I just wanted to learn something new,” said Jasmine. “Like just get out there.”

She said she would like to perform on stage in the future, and thinks the workshop will help with that goal.

“It’s pretty good,” she said. “I like it a lot.”

Payton said she participated because she also wanted to learn new things and meet new people.

Plus, she was hoping to further develop an artistic talent.

“People tell me I’m a good singer,” she said. “I sing and I want to be a singer.”

Payton said some of the activities at the workshop helped young people deal with stage fright, under the guidance of the visiting performers.

“I trusted them and they were making me feel welcome,” she said.

The tour of the three NWT communities was supported by the NWT Arts Council.

Arluk, who is originally from Fort Smith, has a small theatre company called Akpik Theatre, and she divides her time between Yellowknife and Vancouver.

“I never discovered the arts until I was much later in my life, and I just knew that I didn’t have a lot of access to the arts,” she said. “And so when I got older, I didn’t actually find my voice because of that. I just felt it was really important that we be able to create an artistic voice for ourselves in the North and that we define our stories and we define who we are.”

Arluk said she hopes to be able to inspire people to create a voice for themselves.

The graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program said she specializes in theatre and storytelling.

However, she admits to not being a very good singer, and that is why she enlisted Benson’s help for the tour.

Benson said she saw a lot of talent at the workshops.

“What I find is most youth are already playing instruments,” she said. “A lot of youth are at home by themselves playing instruments. So we’ve been able to bring those instruments into the space with the youth and then start to overlay it with text or with other performers within the groups, and it becomes a more complete performance.”

Arluk said Jackson, an aboriginal performer originally from Alberta, was brought onto the tour to make it more culturally diverse and to add a male presence.

Jackson said he hopes the workshop will give young people a small spark to develop their artistic talent. “Wherever they choose to take that inspiration and talent is where we want them to go with it.”

— Paul Bickford