Robert Lepage not changing cast for Kanata after meeting with Indigenous groups
Montreal playwright Robert Lepage isn't changing the casting in his controversial new show Kanata.
It's based on Canadian history focusing on interactions between settlers and indigenous people, but features mostly white actors playing indigenous roles.
Members of the local indigenous communities held a meeting with Lepage Thursday night, but left feeling like nothing was accomplished.
“I went home and I cried. That's what it was like,” said Nakuset, executive director of the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter.
Critics say the photos from dress rehearsals were enough for them to feel what he was portraying was wrong.
“I look at that and I'm like, ‘What nation is that?’ It looks like five different nations all squished into one. That's where it becomes a problem,” said Nakuset.
The meeting touched on many facets of indigenous cultures, including the play's use of drumming, which is deeply woven into indigenous culture.
“He said, ‘If there's a drum in the play, the beat that will be played is not the traditional beat. We will play it the way we want,” said Alexandra Lorange, a legal research consultant for Indigenous rights.
Lepage's company issued a statement on Facebook saying on behalf of the production team: "They express their gratitude for having been listened to with attention and goodwill."
This is the second time in a matter of weeks Lepage is being accused of being insensitive to the portrayal of non-whites.
The Jazz Fest apologized, but Lepage called it an affront to artistic freedom.
He’s so far made no commitment to change anything in the casting of Kanata.
“My best-case scenario was him just hiring one Indigenous actor,” said Nakuset. “He is in a very powerful position where he can choose to do the right thing. Yesterday I didn't see it.”
Indigenous leaders said they hope to meet with Lepage again in hopes of finding a solution.
Kanata is set to open in Paris on Dec. 15.