Stretching Hide Audio Review
INTERVIEW: Richard Baschak
November 30, 2010
Dale Lakevold: Manitoba Writer, Teacher, Playwright
Manitoba Writer Dale Lakevold is a teacher and playwright. He has taught in a variety of communities including Norway House, Cross Lake, Split Lake and Nelson House, and more recently at Brandon University, where he helped develop the Creative Writing Program. His published work over the past 15+ years is extensive, and includes plays such as “L-Love’s Body,” “Misty,” “Stretching Hide” and “Wild Geese.” A more complete listing of Lakevold’s publications is available at: http://mbplays.ca/playwrights/dale-lakevold.
BASCHAK: Tell me about your play “Stretching Hide.”
LAKEVOLD: I worked on this play with Darrell Racine for seven years, workshopped at Native Earth in Toronto, had it out in Kamloops at a Theatre B.C. Playwriting Competition with a reading and a cast. We staged a reading at a gender conference at Brandon University, and Ardith Boxall from Theatre Projects Manitoba saw it and got it up as a production after than. It was a big production for Theatre Projects, a company used to doing smaller shows. This play financially was quite a bit larger with seven characters.
The play began with Darrell Racine, a Native Studies professor at Brandon University. “Stretching Hide” is drawn from Racine’s experience growing up in a Metis community, which is different from the perceptions of most people driving by. Passersby may not even realize it’s a community. In the beginning of writing, Racine and I would go down to the community, which gave me a little taste of what that life was like, which was very interesting. I found the idea of making a play about a contemporary Metis community totally unique. So it was difficult to find a company to take on the play. I’m is not aware of the existence of a play like “Stretching Hide,” which is interesting considering that the province of Manitoba was founded by the Metis.
BASCHAK: Tell me about about your writing since “Stretching Hide.”
LAKEVOLD: I backed away from writing since “Stretching Hide.” I wrote some one acts, reviews, but mainly producing, especially a couple of one act play festivals in Brandon in 2007/2009 These festivals brought in a theatre professional to work with Brandon and area writers, involving 20/25 people, and involved eight short plays each festival.
I’m now in conversation with Darrell Racine again about an historical play. I’m writing a one character adaptation of a story from the early 20th century. It’s called Aleta Dey by Francis Marion Baynon and is about one of the early Manitoba feminist/suffragists, pacifist anti-war activist. The novel was set near and in Brandon, and in Winnipeg. I found this subject matter engaging, and felt it needed to be done.
BASCHAK: Much of your writing emerges from your experience, particularly from your travels and work in rural and northern communities. What is it about these experiences that moves you to write?
LAKEVOLD: Years back, after leaving high school, I remember thinking that what I needed to do the most was to travel across Canada and gain experience. I didn’t exactly know what that experience would entail, but I knew that it meant meeting people and seeing the country and beyond. It meant doing what couldn’t be done at home and being open to whatever came my way. I left home with $500 and ended up traveling for about a year and a half. Those experiences as a teenager have been informing my life ever since, especially as far as the writing goes. I never wanted to have the kind of life that was going to follow the same routines and habits day after day. That’s probably why I never had a full-time permanent job until just about five years ago, and even now, my work at the university, which I’m extremely grateful for, enables me to have extended periods of time where I can read and write and be involved in creative activities of various kinds. My university work requires me, in fact, to spend time reading and writing and thinking. The way I see it, everything I do feeds into the writing, and the writing itself works itself back into life.
BASCHAK: To what extent does “Dale Lakevold” enter in the narrative of your written work?
LAKEVOLD: Everything can probably be traced back to my life in some form or another. Mind you, the work that I’ve done with my writing partner, Darrell Racine, is not especially drawn from my life. The two plays we’ve done so far have been on material related to Aboriginal people and culture. Even so, I don’t know that I could have been a contributing collaborator with Darrell, if I hadn’t been up north and traveled across the country and to other parts of the world and learned something about indigenous people and their cultures. It’s virtually impossible to remain separate or apart from the work that appears on the page. I may not write be writing autobiography, strictly speaking, but the outlines and fragments of my life can be discerned in the work in some way.
BASCHAK: You and I have collaborated together in writing while at B.U. “Stretching Hide” was a collaboration with Darrell Racine, and your project based on Aleta Dey is also a collaboration. What is it that draws you to work collaboratively?
LAKEVOLD: I love working with other people on creative projects and activities of all kinds. I found out that I love collaboration when I started working on a student newspaper at the University of Lethbridge some years ago. “The Meliorist” had a radical streak in it, and I was given an intense political education during my time there. We had an extremely talented and creative group of people who went on to do fine work on many of the city dailies across Canada and on publications in the States. They became writers and photographers and artists. That’s where I learned about the power of the written word and the way that it could change people and help to make the world a better place. I know about the many writers and artists who try to deny that their work has anything to do with the way that people live their lives and the way that societies are developed and shaped. That’s fine for them to think that, but it’s not true, in the least. Writers and artists open up the world to new possibilities and experiences. The world would be an impoverished place without artists and creators from any field whatsoever. As far as collaboration goes, I’ve found a home in theatre. The playwright writes a text that makes collaboration possible. The collaborative work of other theatre artists then creates something more from the playwright’s material. In adapting a novel for the stage, for example, I’m in a more precarious position because I want to do justice to the original work and bring out the drama that’s in it.
(Original posting can be found at: http://richardseesthis.blogspot.ca/2010/11/interview-with-dale-lakevold.html#!/2010/11/interview-with-dale-lakevold.html
REVIEW: Richard Baschak
November 14, 2010 – Winnipeg
HOMEPLACE: Writings from around Manitoba
Art for me is like a light that presents external experience outside to reveal something inside my own experience. In this respect it connects my individuality with the wider experience of life. I’m tempted to say that it’s our shared language that does this, but it’s not just language – it can also occur through music, painting, architecture and a whole raft of other art communicating without the use of language.
On Friday evening, following the reflection of Remembrance Day, I sat with an unexpectedly large crowd in the travel alcove at the McNally Robinson Grant Park. Andris Taskans, Editor of Prairiefire Magazine and host of the evening, certainly was not expecting what I estimated to be the 70 people in attendance. The occasion was the celebration and launch of HOMEPLACE: Writings from around Manitoba, with readings from some of rural Manitoba’s finest writers. And there was cake and coffee.
For an hour I just sat back and enjoyed eleven writers reading excerpts from their short stories, or plays, or poems. All of them resonated with something within myself. The writer who read included: Sharron Arksey, Fran Bennett, Donna Besel, Laurie Block, , Di Brand, Lois Braun, Paul Krahn, Dale Lakevold, Fisher Lavell, and Talia Pura. Here are a few highlights from the readings.
Arksey’s “Cows with Hooves” painted a vivid picture of the oppression of debt, unfavorable weather and stress felt by many rural farmers. She made brilliant use of the circumstance of cows in a too-wet garden and the destruction of their hooves. But it wasn’t just a brilliantly detailed retelling of that unfortunate circumstance. It was also a clever weaving of the fear of debt and “where’s the money gonna come from,” and even a humorous planting of the bank statement in one of the craters created by a hoof in the soggy soil in the hope that it’s true that money might grow on trees. I recognized those hoof prints, but I also recognized the my own hopeful spirit that drives me on against odds that don’t seem to be in my favor.
Block certainly delighted me with a reading from “Three Fat Pigs in the Middle of the Road.” I recognized so much of recent and contemporary experience in a move from the city to the country, macrobiotic diets, the dynamics of human sexuality, and how the arrival of a newborn changes a relationship.Where do the pigs come in? The narrator’s embrace of a meatless diet only lasted so long.
Lakevold read from the beginning of his most recent play based on the character Aleta Dey in Francis Marion Beynon’s 1919 novel of the same name. Aleta, a woman ahead of her time, spurns the rigid conventionality of her rural Canadian upbringing to become a journalist, suffragist and pacifist in Winnipeg. In the mood of increasing militarism in prior to the Great War Aleta stands apart in her conviction that “the only conquering force in the world is love.” This counter-cultural conviction earns her imprisonment and eventually leads to tragedy. Lakevold’s reading brought the character to life. He read a portion in which Aleta recalls an early formative experience of being strapped by her mother. I started reading the novel about Aleta today, and marvel at Lakevold’s wise choice of this strong character who goes against both the conventionality of the dominant culture and her own upbringing. Aleta is a truly courageous character.
And of course there was coffee, cake and continued conversation following the readings. This was a wonderful way to spend a Friday evening.
(Original posting can be found at:
REVIEW: STRETCHING HIDE
Oct/Nov 2007 – Thunder Voice News
This play is set in rural Saskatchewan not far from the big city. The events occur over a long weekend. The play’s stage is partitioned into three sets. The Kid’s tiny rough lumber shack, stage right, is propped by a tall wood stove, some fur stretcher boards, traps and an old truck sear décor along the well. Clear across at stage left Alfred’s fur shack has a simple round table propped with a bottle of liquor and a collection of deer antlers adorning the wall. His old wood stove accents the scene. The main stage (centre) is Frank’s house overlooking the lake that was named after his father. The ordinary kitchen’s focal point is an old style table with mismatched chairs. The play is obviously intended for an adult audience as some of the props used are real from the sharp axes and knives which are wielded, sometimes very carelessly, to the boxes of name brand beer that is also consumed openly from the bottles. Expletives lace the dialogue and help intensify the drama here and there. As it unravels it pits all characters around provoked emotions, character assassination, innuendos, the excitement of new and growing love and having to accept some realities of life such as survival, like it or not.
The writers are clever in their approach to lure the audience into the issues which are not always right there in front of you. A good example is the opening scene which presents what one would assess to be the main plot as it proceeds at great length on this issue well into the play. The issue is clearly traditional Metis hunting rights. Amid the deep anxiety that is created by dissecting this issue through the characters, the writers magically articulate the historical significance the hunting issue presents and the dilemmas it can trigger. In this production you never see the government (game wardens) but they are truly there amongst the deep resentment portrayed and within the fear their presence nearby invokes on those familiar with their policies. Other subplots, though, emerge as the air of panic and anger sorts itself through.
Of course it helps immensely when a production as such is anchored by a solid cast and this group of actors is truly amazing. The two who play love birds are quite convincing in their roles. Frank, played by Ryan Cunningham, had studied to become the town lawyer encounters a roller coaster of chaotic emotions and it really shows in all his reactions. He had only wanted come home, show off his white girlfriend Clara and maybe have a sociable drink with his dad, Alfred. Daria Puttaert in the role of Clara is very good at portraying a blindsided, confused young bride to be or…not to be, given all she has to deal with on this forgettable weekend when her man could face a charge of poaching.
The town hunter Eugene and his wife Marie add much needed substance to the drama and both prop up the other characters quite successfully. Marie played by Paula-Jean Prudat is a support role but she does well in being the person who is calming and clarifying. She hangs out mostly with the character Sandy played by Jan Skene. Sandy, a white woman, has a chip on her shoulder about the Metis and it turns out she shares more than just mutual disdain with Alfred. The role of Eugene played by Jonathan Fisher is very helpful in translating to the audience the unwritten rules of the Metis hunt. He’s able to act his part and without it being too obvious conveys the irreplaceable role of the hunter to the larger community including what is done when things go array. Without really trying to be comical this fellow by virtue of the situations he finds himself in and the emotional moments he accidentally walks into just ends up saying funny things.
‘Yeah, there’s no meat left at our house neither-cause the kids burnt all the baloney too,” he says in a serious tone. The audience howled in glee.
The show’s producers aced it when they landed the actor for the character of Alfred and the character of Marten (Kid). Not only are they convincing in their high expectation roles but they nail it with their skillful, well gauged voice dynamics, body language and facial expressions. Incredibly Thomas Hauff (Alfred) comes across as the community tyrant who manipulated his way to absolute wealth and power. He easily exudes the uncanny ability to be gentle and kind one moment and boisterous, intimidating, threatening and ruthless the next. “And if you own the land, god-dammit, you own the peoplem,” he bellows in one dramatic scene.
The character of Marten is portrayed by Eric Blais and this man captures the essence of this role for sure. He is able to get you wondering right off the hop about how old he might be and why the obnoxious behaviour. He comes across as very determined, unintentionally witty and charming all in one. Early in the show he had me thinking that maybe this character was autistic.
The deep dark truth though is revealed later in the second half of the play and this young man helps keep you in suspense masterfully. It turns out Marten knows much more about everything than anyone ever expected from someone who got damaged in his mother’s (Sandy) womb.
Kudos also to the fiddle player namely, Jesse Hull who plays solo scoring the entire play. In fact he warms up the audience prior to the play with rousing renditions of traditional Metis fiddle tunes such as the Red River Jig and Big John McNeil.
In the dramatic and often twisted concluding dialogue amongst the play’s principles, the audience is finally blown away by the revelation of a long ago statutory rape and botched attempt to abort child. One realizes that small towns really don’t have secrets at all. Rumours and controversies do reach everyone at one time or other and have a basis of truth, one surmises.
In the end I was left only scratching my head about the inferred stereotype in the play that Metis men go to the big city to find their light haired, fair skinned woman that they bring back to the community as prized trophies. I turned to mention this to my wife but hesitated and thought for a minute to engage the thought with our friends seated to the right of her but he’s a Metis guy too with a wife, white and beautiful like mine. I thought, nah…instead, I turned back to the stage, took a tiny bite of crow and saluted the bowing cast. Bravo!!
This show played before a packed house on November 1st, at the Rachel Brown Theatre in Winnipeg. It was premiered by Theatre Projects Manitoba and was part of the Manito-ahbee. A Festival for All Nations. The production toyed with my emotions throughout the performance. It had me identifying to its core message and had me relating it to specific families I know and situations like it that I’ve seen first hand. It was very effective. Great writing, exceptional acting and overall a very sound production. This is a (4) out of (5) star, in my humble review. When the opportunity presents itself, find the time and go see. It’s well worth it.
REVIEWS: Stretching Hide
Published In – Prairie Fire
Hiding and Exposing
Published in Prairie Fire
Stretching Hide by Dale Lakevold and Darrell Racine. Winnipeg: Scirocco, 2007.
Review by Warren Cariou
Dale Lakevold and Darrell Racine’s second co-authored play, Stretching Hide, tells the story of rural Métis people coming to terms with colonial power structures that have come to infiltrate the very fabric of their community. Building on Racine’s experience as a Metis from the Turtle Mountains, the playwrights tackle questions of power, violence, racism and gender bias within their chosen microcosm. Both writers, professors at Brandon University, have been highly lauded for their past academic and creative work, and this latest addition will certainly add to their impressive credentials. By mixing genres and by providing a starkly realistic account of Métis life in the rural West, they create a highly memorable and haunting work of dramatic art.
On the surface Stretching Hide is a mystery story, hinging upon the question of who has poached a deer that is discovered on Frank Ducharme’s land. Since most of the people in the community hunt out of season to feed their families, it would seem that the poacher could be almost anyone in the cast of characters. But the difference in this case is that the deer’s antlers have been taken, while the carcass has been left to rot. This goes so strongly against indigenous ethics of hunting that no one can imagine who might have done it. At the same time, the government authorities have decided that they must charge someone for the crime, and the result is that each of the Métis men in the play find themselves at risk of being jailed, whether or not they are guilty.
This play is first and foremost about authority, even though the wildlife officers themselves remain offstage for the whole production. This provides a compelling metaphor for the operation of colonial power even within apparently autonomous indigenous communities: the fact that the community is surrounded by, and subject to, external laws and powers ends up having a huge effect on the ways in which these community members treat each other. Since Frank is a lawyer as well as a Métis man, he represents both the outside authority and the inner community. His struggles to remain true to his father’s hopes for him while also securing his relationship with the outsider, Clara, serve as a powerful allegory for the ways in which Aboriginal communities relate to tradition and to exterior forms of value and power. Frank is in many ways the most sympathetic character in the play, the one with the most to lose and the most to gain.
Nested inside this postcolonial poaching whodunit is a domestic drama, following the relationship of Frank and his new fiancée, Clara, who has come from the city to meet Frank’s family and to decide where they might live once they are married. Frank’s strategies of relating to Clara owe a great deal to his own father’s treatment of him, which causes much tension between the two lovers. Clara soon realizes that she is not only marrying into a family, but also into an entire community with a long and tangled history. In a play that deals directly with the interconnectedness of community members, Clara is fascinating for her outsider status and, more importantly, for the integrity and strength with which she approaches this situation. What she learns about Frank’s family, and about the community in general, is both shocking and deeply moving.
One other extraordinary character in Stretching Hide is the mentally handicapped man, Marten, who lives in abject poverty and is treated like a child by most of the people around him. Marten is reminiscent of Faulkner’s Benjy Compson, though he also has an element of tricksterish unintentional wisdom about him, which places him squarely within Métis storytelling traditions. Like the animal which is his namesake, Marten is more clever than he may at first appear, and he manages to assert his own perspective in unexpected ways, despite the fact that his fellow community members underestimate him. His resistance against paternalism and well-meaning coddling can be seen as another commentary on the ways in which colonial structures need to be exposed and resisted even inside colonized communities.
By giving us a detailed and affecting picture of one small community, Lakevold and Racine have provided an excellent encapsulation of the ways in which many Native communities struggle to maintain their autonomy as they relate to the outside world. The resilience of these characters, despite their troubles, speaks volumes for the strength of Métis and First Nations people who have found themselves in similar situations.
July 15, 1999 – Winnipeg Free Press
Fringe Play Opened Eyes
I am writing to encourage further funding of the Fringe Festival in general and everyone associated with Misty Lake in particular.
While I have lived in Winnipeg all my life and I work in the Exchange District downtown, I have never attended the Fringe Festival before. This year I began to read the daily reviews appearing in the Winnipeg Free Press, which should be commended for providing such extensive coverage of the festival, and I read Kevin Prokosh’s five star review of Misty Lake. I am articling part-time with the Public Interest Law Centre and one of my tasks is to assist with a claim for compensation on behalf of the Sayisi Dene of northern Manitoba. So I decided I might learn something by seeing Misty Lake.
I was able to get to the last show at Cinematheque at 12:15 a.m., late Saturday night. There was a full house. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I spent most of the next hour with tears in my eyes, partly from sorrow, partly from laughter and mainly because I was moved by the underlying message of hope that together people can heal their wounds and make a better future for themselves and their families.
Misty Lake is an extraordinary play. In one all-too-short hour, Dale Lakevold and Darrell Racine have managed to communicate the isolation of northern communities, the terrible effects of removing young children from their families and communities to live in residential schools, the abuse that many suffered, while at those schools, and the after-effects on family relationships, including especially some of the consequences for second and third generations. They provide insight into the causes of alcoholism and violence among those affected.
At the same time, they provide comic relief at just the right moments, demonstrating the kind of wit and self-deprecating humour that many people in such desperate circumstances use to survive. They allude to the healing qualities and respite provided by a retreat into the Canadian wilderness, whether just beyond the Guy Hill Residential School at Misty Lake, or almost anywhere outside our urban areas. Most importantly, the playwrights provide the example of the central character, Mary, a person who has come to terms her past, who understands what her responsibilities and capabilities are and who approaches each day with an entirely positive attitude towards herself, and extended family, and all who enter her life.
All in all, I thought the playwrights have done an amazing job of delivering a universal message to the broadest possible audience. They balance the horrors with genuine hope and avoid going so far as to cause the non-aboriginal audience to tune out.
I thought all members of the cast – Tracey McCorrister, Susan Olson, Marvin Smoker, and David Boulanger – gave excellent performances and very much deserved the standing ovation they received. While this play will undoubtedly be performed in the future by many other actors, I cannot imagine any better cast. Hopefully they will provide an encore, at least for a television production.
If Misty Lake is any indication of the quality of the works performed at the fringe festival, I have been missing a great deal. Next year, I plan to become a “frequent fringer”.
In closing, I would like to note that those who toil as writers, journalists, actors, musicians, artists, teachers, and even politicians, touch the lives of thousands in ways they never know. In this case, I thought I should provide at least a little positive reinforcement for all those associated with Misty Lake
AUDIENCE REVIEWS: MISTY LAKE
Misty Lake goes into my personal top 10 for Fringe plays! All the essential elements come together in this deeply moving story of deeply wounded people who are at various stages in their journeys toward healing. The authentically gentle humour nicely balances the painful revelations of abuse and loss of identity. The full house on Sunday afternoon erupted into a standing ovation the moment the show ended, although a few of us paused to wipe a lingering tear or two. This play deserves a wide audience (it would make a great film!). Three cheers, two thumbs up, and five stars for everyone involved in this quiet gem of a play.
I’ve seen Misty Lake for the second time now. Each time that I emerge from the theatre, there is only one word that circles through my thoughts as I try to describe it…powerful. The actors, the story, take the entire audience on a journey. Through the healing journey of the characters and a healing journey of our own. As an Aboriginal person, each tale within the script highlights a tale of my own. A message given to the audience haunts me as I walk away – ‘in order to heal, you must first be able to talk about your life’. During the evenings following my attendance of Misty Lake I find myself recounting the events in my own life and receiving a bit of what the characters have found, a clearer understanding of who I am and how I came to be. What struck me as I sat in the theatre was the fact that the messages were hitting home, finding root in a diverse audience. Young, old, Aboriginal, non-aboriginal, male, female – all who were there laughed, cried, and went on this journey together. This play is definitely one not to be missed, but if you planning to attend be there early, the theatre was packed both times I was there.
At every Fringe Fest, there are a handful of productions that are so powerful, they’re unforgettable. Misty Lake is one of those plays. Written by Dale Lakevold (Never Never Mind, Kurt Kurt Cobain) and Darrell Racine (a Metis professor at Brandon University), Misty Lake tells the story of Patty, a Metis reporter who visits a northern reserve to interview Mary, a Dene woman, about residential schools and healing. What follows is a voyage of self-discovery as Patty realizes that she must face her own demons. Based on the life of Elizabeth Samuel, a
Manitoba aboriginal who survived personal and cultural tragedies, Misty Lake tackles a tricky and painful subject with intelligence, verve, and originality. The play puts a human face on the victims of systematic abuse, while celebrating the amusing particularities of reserve life. The result is a tender, poignant – and extremely funny – snapshot of another’s plight and place. Smooth and sophisticated, Misty Lake is also the latest example of the exemplary work being donoe by a small but talented core of local aboriginal actors. As Mary, Tracey McCorrister (fareWel) anchors a formidable triumvirate that also includes Susan Olson (Patty) and Marvin Smoker (Bird). Enjoy the standing ovations – you’ve earned them.
July 6, 1999 – Winnipeg Free Press
A Harrowing But Hopeful Story
Misty Lake is the affecting story of a Metis radio reporter who goes to Lac Brochet in northern Manitoba to interview a Dene woman about her personal and cultural tragedies. It is based on the taped conversations Brandon University lecturer Darrell Racine had with Elizabeth Samuel in 1998.
Racine and Dale Lakevold, a Brandon playwright, have fashioned a harrowing but hopeful story about the healing necessary for aboriginals who have survived residential schools, substance abuse and violence. Susan Olson plays Patty, a reporter who seeks out Mary for an interview and gets much more. Mary (Tracey McCorrister) relates her memories of the Guy Hill Residential School and its long-lasting impact on her parenting, self-respect and cultural pride.
The mother of 11 children passes on her hard-earned wisdom to Patty, counseling her that healing comes from telling others your story. Her friend Bird (Marvin Smoker) offers comic relief from the grim accounts being told.
Finely acted and with a message that needs to be heard, Misty Lake is a commendable play that will surely have a long life after the fringe festival.