L’nu (Mi’kmaw) poet and oral storyteller shalan joudry* makes her Neptune Theatre debut in her one-person show Koqm.
I sense that many non-indigenous people are very eager to engage with the history of colonization but are unsure where to start. This play is one small way to do that. – Ken Schwartz
On stage at Neptune’s Fountain Hall through April 17, Koqm is a fictionalized encounter of L’nu (Mi’kmaw) women, guided by the strength of an ancient tree (“koqm”), who might have spoken and walked through one area of forest over centuries.
“The purpose of this show is to give voice to forgotten and silenced historical L’nu women,” says joudry in a media release. “Deeply listening, spending time with old hemlocks as i walked through my community and other landscapes, was all part of my process of imagining what might have been. Real-life L’nu Elders have inspired me with their stories. I am in awe of their strength. I wanted to write about more women like that but from a fictional historical perspective.”
Living close to the colonial Annapolis Royal, joudry was aware of the celebratory stories she heard about the European settlement process and wondered what the L’nu’k were experiencing at those various points throughout the centuries.
“How did they relate, respond, cope? Not that i can voice the multitude of experiences,” says joudry. “This show does not tell our story as though L’nu history can be summarized in one show. These are a few stories, just a handful of women through time to help bring more awareness to the depth of who we are.”
*joudry explains the use of lowercase for her name and lower case “i”:
“My personal choice not to capitalize my name is to be consistent with how i feel that we are taught as Indigenous peoples to not over-emphasize the self in relation to the collective,” she says. “I am aware that this is not a popular grammar practice in English in Canada, yet it’s a stance i have taken at this time. I continue to capitalize other proper nouns in English as i believe it’s not my place or time to ignore the rule on behalf of other names and titles.”
Koqm originally premiered in a co-production co-production between Two Planks and a Passion Theatre and Nestuita’si Storytelling at Annapolis Royal’s Kings Theatre in 2021. Two Planks artistic director and the show’s director Ken Schwartz views Koqm as an opportunity for non-indigenous people to engage with the history of colonization.
“It will leave many audience members with questions about so many things, which I love about this piece,” he says. “It also gives voice to many people who often aren’t referenced in history books, but are incredibly important to recognize and remember, as we all owe them so much.”
Neptune’s artistic director Jeremy Webb says it was important for the company to include Koqm in its 2021-2022 season.
“As a regional theatre, Neptune is committed to opening its doors. Not just the physical space we inhabit on this land, but also in dialogue and as participants in social change,” says Webb. “What an opportunity to welcome shalan joudry onto this stage. To bring us together to listen, to share, to connect and to come together to celebrate the strength, beauty and complexities of Indigenous people.”
joudry will lead a 30-minute talkback with audiences after each performance.
Neptune Theatre presents Koqm at Fountain Hall (1593 Argyle St, Halifax) until April 17. Visit neptunetheatre.com for tickets and information.