Indigenous Contemporary Scene
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019
Cherish Violet Blood: "Deer Woman is an immensely difficult story to tell so emotionally. Not bringing the story home with me has been the biggest challenge."
31st July - 1st August (previews)
2nd-4th, 6th-11th, 13th-18th, 20th-24th August
CanadaHub King’s Hall, 2:30 pm, 1 hour 30 mins | Tickets
Deer Woman is a one-woman play about a Blackfoot woman seeking vengeance for the murder of her younger sister and thousands of other Indigenous women recorded as missing or murdered in Canada in recent decades.
Hello Cherish, many thanks for talking to TNC, how are you doing?
I’m slightly bummed out because it’s “canada day”, but tomorrow is a new day. How are you?
Are you looking forward to being making your run at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?
Absolutely, I have never been in that part of the world, so super excited. I wonder if there are any other Blackfoot over there because I’m pretty you sure you have a bunch of your peeps over here.
Deer Woman is part of this year's Indigenous Contemporary Scene how did you get involved in this project?
Being a part of the Deer Woman crew is the reason I am part of the project.
Do you think more art festivals around Europe should provide this type of unique platform for Indigenous artists and voices?
In my language, we call ourselves Niitsitapi which translates to the real people. When I think of Europe's fabricated idea of Indigenous people through books of Charles C. Mann or those weird powwows over there my answer is YES. I believe it’s about time Europe hears the real stories from the real people.
Deer Woman has already had an incredible run during its Premiere at the Sydney Festival, what was that experience like?
It is always an extreme honour to step into the part of Lila. Sydney Festival was an amazing experience. I have a memory that really stands out. After one of our shows there I was in the dressing room debriefing with our Deer Woman family. There was a knock at the door and the front of house person said My People were waiting at the front to meet me. We all looked a little confused then Tara asked “You mean Blackfoot people?” and the person said “Yes?” We laughed but then I went out and met a Blackfoot person from Siksika, a community close to the one I grew up on. Super amazing to know we have family way over there.
Did you expect it would get the reaction it got for your performance?
I am always open to whatever reaction happens. When we did the first reading at Weesageechak Festival at Native Earth the end reaction was silence with a bit of scattered applause, then at Kia Mau Festival in Aotearoa, the audience again had mixed opinions. Sydney Festival was different because I had been working with the character longer and I felt the story move in me, and the audience felt that too. In all three of those places, we as a company have always felt held up by the presence of our Indigenous family. I am super thankful to be part of such powerful work that evokes such a wide range of reactions from the audience members. So I have learned to not expect and just breathe within the work.
Can you tell me a little bit about Deer Woman, what can we expect?
Deer Woman is a love letter written with the utmost care from Tara Beagan, designed with precision and directed with kindness by Andy Moro, backed up with amazing music written by the gifted songstress Lacey Hill. I have always wanted to say this: Seriously, prepare to be moved.
It still scared me, though, so I had to talk with my mom and ask her thoughts on this part."
Who is Lila?
Lila is a Blackfoot woman whose life circumstances have made her into a warrior woman. She is gentle, loving, smart, tough, brave, calculated, resilient and last but not least beautiful. Lila is the culmination of all our Indigenous sisters’ struggles and refusal to be ignored in a country that has never cared for them and continues to treat them as disposable. Lila demands respect
What was it about this character and Tara Beagan’s writing that interested you so much to get involved?
Tara first told me about Deer Woman when we were on a break during a reading of another one of her plays. She told me the story of the drive she and Andy were on and how Andy cast me (in his brilliance.) Seriously though, when I first read the play it scared me because I have never read an Indigenous character like this before. The story itself is so true to being Indigenous in this world. The characters are so carefully crafted and cared for by Tara’s writing that it made me excited to attempt to give them the same care in bringing them to life. It still scared me, though, so I had to talk with my mom and ask her thoughts on this part. Immediately after reading she called me and said: “Damn rights my girl, and when you do this you think of all those women when you do this”. She brought up the story of Cindy Gladue, and how even after she was brutally murdered the courts again desiccated her body by parading it in court for the defence of her murderer. There are so many other stories that I could mention. For my missing and murdered Indigenous sisters whose stories are never told, I along with the members of Deer Woman family bring Lila forward as their voice.
Once you read the play how did you go about bringing this powerful, determined woman to life?
I know these characters that Tara has written so well from people in my own life. I put the trust in the writing and the careful guidance of Andy Moro to lift the story. For the most part, I really had to map them out and put the words to memory in the body and treat the play like a perfectly executed basketball play.
How important, for a production like this, is the collaborative nature for artists?
Tara Beagan, Andy Moro, Lacey Hill are a dream team. In order for a story like this to be told with such care every single one of our skills has been used professionally and personally. Through the collaborative exploration of this piece and the generosity of each other, we have become family.
" I am a big believer in using the playwright’s words to tell the story - this was a huge challenge and continues."
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced bringing Deer Woman to life?
Deer Woman is an immensely difficult story to tell so emotionally. Not bringing the story home with me has been the biggest challenge. I am supported as Lacey Hill, who is also the stage manager, is my partner, so we agreed to work when we work, and that is it. Another challenge was to give the author Tara Beagan her words. I am a big believer in using the playwright’s words to tell the story - this was a huge challenge and continues. Andy and I have been long-time friends so trying to be kind through notes from my Brother is always a challenge. One day Andy, one day.
If you could choose three words to describe this play what would they be?
Niitsitapi, Iikaakimaat (try hard), Kitstikakomim (I love you).
For any emerging Indigenous artists out there do you have any advice you could offer them?
Never let fear be what stops you from trying, Our Ancestors never stopped trying.
And finally, what do you hope your Edinburgh audiences will take away from this play?
I hope they leave feeling empowered and full of questions about the image that Canadians are so nice, which too many love to hold up.