Debajehmujig gearing up for a summer of live production

The Holy Cross Mission ruins in Wiikwemkoong has often been a popular venue for past Debaj productions, Mr. Noakwegijig said the mainstage will take place at the Larry E. Lewis Creation Centre in Manitowaning, given the uncertainty of pandemic restrictions and the vulnerability of Indigenous communities during the pandemic.

WIIKWEMKOONG—Live theatre has taken a pounding, like other in-person events, during the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Now with those restrictions being lifted across the province, theatre groups are ramping up plans for a triumphant return to the footlights. Debajehmujig Storytellers, Manitoulin’s world-renown Indigenous theatre company, is excited to be in rehearsals for an expanded production of ‘In the Name of Humanity,’ a collaborative work that they were only able to present to a very limited audience during a short eye in the COVID storm.

“We are looking at a three-week run of ‘In the Name of Humanity,’ said Debaj artistic director Bruce Noakwegijig. “We are really excited, because when we did it the second time (before a very small pandemic restricted audience), Jacob Wemigwans wasn’t with us.” The young actor will be returning for this mainstage production.

‘In the Name of Humanity’ is part of ‘TransPoetico Trilogy, Epic Borders,’ a tryptic production which takes place in Mexico, Northern Ireland and Canada (Debaj’s contribution). The original production was an international collaboration between the actors and support staff of Debajehmujig and Manifesto Politico, global arts organization with a foot in many waters. The original production was filmed and produced under co-directors Paige Allerton and Carlos García Estévez. The Expositor interviewed the directors back in 2021 during the initial production of the work which can now be viewed online.

In addition to the summer mainstage, Debaj has been in high gear putting together a number of commissioned works and are in currently in negotiations for other works for the fall.

Although the Holy Cross Mission ruins in Wiikwemkoong has often been a popular venue for past Debaj productions, Mr. Noakwegijig said the mainstage will take place at the Larry E. Lewis Creation Centre in Manitowaning, given the uncertainty of pandemic restrictions and the vulnerability of Indigenous communities during the pandemic.

“We are under Wiikwemkoong and so we follow their mandates,” he said. “The safety of the community, our staff and our audiences are paramount.”

During the pandemic, Debaj staff and crew have been exploring digital opportunities and honing their online chops with new technical skillsets, but their first love and focus remains live theatre and Mr. Noakwegijig admits everyone is excited to be working on live productions again.

Details on performance dates and admission prices are still being worked upon but, fingers crossed, given the rollercoaster ride of pandemic restrictions over the past two years, that information should be forthcoming later in the spring.