DECEMBER 2019 | Volume 186


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Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey
by Quelemia Sparrow
Savage Society (Vancouver) / Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
The Cultch Historic Theatre
Jan. 23-Feb. 1
From $26 or 604-251-1363

Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey invites the audience to bear witness to a reclamation of culture, land, and self.

The Cultch and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival are thrilled to present Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey, a world premiere by Musqueam artist, Quelemia Sparrow produced by Savage Society, on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, January 23- February 1, 2020, at the Historic Theatre. Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey is part of The Cultch’s fourth annual Femme Series; a series of shows and events intended to highlight female-identifying voices and experiences.*

"Skyborn is an invitation; we invite you to be activated to honour, respect, and protect the land and stories of the peoples of these territories. Come learn the place names and heal the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples."

A black hole, hungry ghosts, a Grandmother wolf—Quelemia Sparrow’s Skyborn is an epic odyssey grounded in Indigenous ancestral knowledge. Guided through the universe on a river made of stars, Sparrow makes a journey by canoe to recover her lost soul from the land of the dead. This adventure is deeply rooted in the cosmology and teachings of her Musqueam heritage. 

Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey was initially conceived in 2016 when Quelemia Sparrow created a workshop production called O’wet.  Since that workshop, Skyborn has gone through a total transformation for this new production. “Many issues arose from that workshop, with a non-indigenous company, pertaining to the Indigenous content and the Musqueam ideologies and protocol,” says Sparrow. Quelemia Sparrow ultimately decided she needed Indigenous artistic leadership to navigate the Musqueam perspectives and protocols, leading her to create this brand new production. “It was imperative Savage Society produce the show, says Quelemia Sparrow. “Working with Savage Society has meant that we were able to take the time to assemble an Indigenous team from across Turtle Island, and two Musqueam artists, and one Sto:lo artist.” 

Directed by Kim Senklip Harvey—who led her Kamloopa team to win the Jessie Richardson Theatre award for Significant Artistic Achievement for Decolonizing Theatre Practices and Space—Skyborn has continued the work of decolonizing theatre. "This is the process to which Indigenous story and artistic ceremony should be supported,” says Harvey. “Rooted in a deep respect for Nation specific Indigenous protocol, Skyborn is the example of how Indigenous Theatre needs to be created." With an emphasis on the collaboration of talented Indigenous artists at every stage of the production, this ‘solo show’ is anything but a solo endeavor. Skyborn is a genre-busting production, with video, puppetry, animation, and music. "One of the most powerful components of telling this story is the Indigenous inter-National collaborations happening across Turtle Island within the Skyborn company,” says Harvey. “This process is a potent embodiment of the sophisticated trading agreements that have existed for thousands of years between Indigenous. This goes beyond acting on a stage, this is an act of Indigenous continuance.”

Skyborn features work from a team of illustrators—Chief Lady Bird, Chrystal Sparrow, and Carrielynn Victor; sound design from a team lead by Mishelle Cuttler—with the work of Poet Laureate Christie Lee Charles and Russell Wallace; puppets from renowned puppet designer, Stephanie Elgersma; video from Emily Sousanna (Kamloopa); costumes by Indigenous fashion designer, Evan Ducharme; and set and lighting designs from Andy Moro and Itai Erdal.

Skyborn is imaginatively constructed and fiercely poignant. It introduces never-before-seen Musqueam/Sto:lo visual storytelling and animation, as well as inter-Indigenous sound and puppetry, but at its heart is the simple, irreducible force of human presence: Sparrow is a natural performer, endowed with grace and magnetism.

“When a person had a spirit sickness, it was said that their soul had left their body. In Skyborn, we use theatre to embody a ritual that is a personal and familial odyssey of reclamation of self, and land, and blood memory.”—Quelemia Sparrow

"Skyborn is a never seen before, Inter-Indigenous Nationhood artistic ceremony that is a powerful act of cultural continuance. This story goes beyond theatre, and journeys into the depths of the Universe to heal our spirits. It has been an honour to help lead and support this odyssey." — Kim Senklip Harvey

* This event uses an inclusive definition of femme, and includes all self-identifying female, trans, and non-binary folks.

Playwright and Performer: Quelemia Sparrow, Director: Kim Senklip Harvey, Indigenous Framework Consultant: Lindsay Lachance, Dramaturg: David Bloom, Set Design: Andy Moro, Video Design: Emily Soussana, Costume Design: Evan Ducharme, Lighting Design: Itai Erdal, Illustrations: Chief Lady BirdChrystal SparrowCarrielynn Victor, Sound Designer/Sound Team Lead: Mishelle Cuttler, Song Creators/Musicians: Christie Lee Charles Russell Wallace, Puppet Design: Stephanie Elgersma, Puppeteer: Kelsey Kanatan Wavey Stage Manager: Lois Dawson, Apprentice Stage Manager: Brody Halfe

A special thank you Chelsea McPeake, Savage Society General Manager, whose work has been pivotal for this project.

WHEN: Jan 23 – Feb 1, 2020

Jan 23, 7:30PM: Preview
Jan 24, 7:30PM: Opening
Jan 25, Jan 28–Feb 1, 7:30PM
Jan 25–26, Feb 1, 2PM

ASL Interpreted Performance: Jan 28, 7:30PM

Live Audio Described Performance (in Partnership with VocalEye): Feb 1, 2PM

Post-show Artist Talkback: Jan 26, 28

WHERE: Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St.

TICKETS: Tickets from $26. Single tickets on sale now through The Cultch’s Box Office: 604-251-1363 or

Quelemia Sparrow is an Indigenous actor, writer, and director from the Musqueam Nation. She graduated from Studio 58’s Theatre program and the Langara Film Arts screenwriting program.

Savage Society tells stories based on myth, tradition, and the contemporary Indigenous experience. Skyborn launches their first full season of production, the culmination of years of development and investment in work by Indigenous artists. Upcoming: White Noise by Taran Kootenhayoo (Firehall Arts Centre), Coyote and Rabbit help the People defeat the Monsters by Kevin Loring (Songs of the Land, Lytton) and a world premiere co-production in the fall with details soon to be announced. 

Savage Society was created in 2004 as a vehicle through which its members could produce their own stories as practicing Indigenous Theatre and Film Artists. Originally, an ad-hoc organization, Savage Society was incorporated in 2013. Artistic Director Kevin Loring is a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation from the Lytton First Nation in British Columbia. In 2017, he became the first Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre of Canada. Based in Vancouver and New Westminster, Savage Society operates on unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-waututh, Qayqayt, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Territory. 

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is one of Vancouver’s signature events. Produced over three weeks each January, the Festival expands the horizons of Vancouver artists and audiences with work that is visionary, genre-bending, multi-disciplined, startling, and original.

The Festival showcases acclaimed international, Canadian and local artists and mixes them together with an alchemy that inspires audiences, rejuvenates artists, stimulates the industry, and forges productive relationships around the globe. More than just shows, the Festival is a broker of international partnerships, a meeting place for creative minds, a showcase of Canada’s best, and an incubator of brilliant new work.

Since 1973, The Cultch (formally the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) has been one of Vancouver’s most diverse and innovative arts and cultural hubs. The organization operates three theatrical venues, a gallery, and various ancillary spaces in the heart of East Vancouver. The Cultch offers dynamic contemporary programming in theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts, bringing world-class cultural presentations to thousands of citizens each year through its own programming and through providing rental opportunities for community users. Our purpose is to provide a venue for performance that serves a diverse and engaged public and provides space for artistic experimentation and development, building an audience for local companies and presenting cutting-edge national and international work.





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