Kris Alvarez is exploring a place where land acknowledgement and a theatre show are one and the same.
3 min read

SK Arts - Kris Alvarez and her family sing together on the steps of The Artesian in Regina

A still from Kris Alvarez's show, Burnt Sienna.

At public events, audiences have become used to hearing treaty acknowledgements, many of which seem recited by rote. Regina theatre artist Kris Alvarez feels it’s important to personalize these acknowledgements, and says, “At the start of any event I am performing in, I have been giving myself the task of making acknowledgements more true to who I am in this place, at this present time – first generation immigrant, artist, settler, parent, uninvited guest. It’s in my nature, my upbringing, to find ways for something as important as land acknowledgements to exist with my art.”

Through her project, Acknowledgement, for which she received an Independent Artists grant, Alvarez is exploring “a place where a land acknowledgement and a theatre show are one and the same, where there isn’t a definite line separating the two.”

Acknowledgement naturally flows from Alvarez’s other work, Golden Potluck and Burnt Sienna, as well as her current artistic practice, all of which, she says, “hold spaces and open up conversations about othering, race and identity with diverse communities in a non-traditional theatre approach.”

SK Arts - Kris Alvarez performs an opening monologue in her show, Burnt Sienna

Kris Alvarez welcomes the audience to her show, Burnt Sienna.

Alvarez engaged nêhiyaw powwow dancer Chasity Delorme, contemporary dancer Misty Wensel and nêhiyaw/Métis performer Krystle Pederson to collaborate on the piece. She was forthright with her Indigenous artist friends when she engaged them: “I said, ‘I don’t want to feel like I’m exploiting you.’ I’m hyperaware of how people are trying to invite BIPOC voices into a room, but sometimes it’s not thoughtful enough. It can be a bit transactional and steeped in colonial ways.”

With COVID cases in the province reduced in summer 2020, Alvarez connected with the dancers in person, serving as a bridge between the two. “I had conversations with Misty about being the settler artists in the room – how can we create a space that feels creatively safe and free to share how we’re feeling about acknowledgement and relationships to the land and the people who were here way before us?”

As Pederson lives in Saskatoon, she and Alvarez worked separately, writing humourous songs and then coming together for one day in the studio with the other artists.

Alvarez’s main goal is to allow artists in Acknowledgement, including recent addition Métis fabric artist Melanie Monique Rose, to be authentically themselves in the process. “What a gift that will be for the depth of the work and the quality of the piece,” she says. “I feel fortunate to have the support of SK Arts to really plan this through and take care with it.”