As a terminal cancer sufferer Annie spends her final days at home, smoking marijuana to cope with her physical pain, listening to Bob Marley tunes, and getting into continuous conflict with her daughter, an uptight unmarried school-teacher. Troy is a homeless young man who breaks into their house by climbing into the window with his baby. Although he hits it off with Annie, he also argues with Kerry, who labels him a thug.
Three sole actors—Tantoo Cardinal as Annie, Aaron Shingoose as Troy, and Ntara Curry as Kerry—performed the play ‘Three Little Birds’ that showed at the Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon from March 3-12.
“Annie happens to be a Native and she happens to want to go back to her community where she grew up to pass her final days,” said actor Tantoo Cardinal in an interview with Sage. “Her daughter (Kerry who is part white) is giving her a rough time on that. Her daughter is her unfinished business. And Troy is kind of the devil-angel that comes in the middle of it,” she added.
She said it was a great experience working with the crew such as playwright Ken T. Williams and director Lorne Cardinal.
“It was a good rehearsal process and I enjoy working with Lorne, he’s a good captain,” Cardinal said.
For actor Shingoose, who grew up in Saskatoon and has acted with the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company for four years, being part of the play is enlightening. He also said it’s a bit intimidating to work with more experienced actors such as Cardinal.
“I only have four years experience with me and everyone else has ten or more,” he said. “But it’s really enlightening to see established actors and just picking up tips.”
He described his character as having extreme ups and downs throughout the play with most of his downs happening when he’s alone.
“He doesn’t think anyone is watching,” Shingoose said.
One such situation is when Troy steals a joint from Annie and smokes it outside her house as she sleeps inside. He appears to do it to relieve his stressful burdensome feelings of being a homeless single father. Then he breaks down and cries, a contrast to the hard exterior he portrays in front of others.
“It’s kind of like the young bravado that’s put on.
‘I’m not going to let you see myself, I’m going to put on a front of being angry and mean instead’,” Shingoose said.
He added that it’s a change from the characters he usually plays in other SNTC productions.
“Most of my other characters are usually quirky or upbeat and funny. This time I’m playing someone who’s really coming from a very sad and lonely place,” he said, adding that he knows of some real-life people in that situation.
“And that’s how they live, that’s how they are. So that’s really touching to see, that’s like a person whose coming from a deep, lonely place to someone becoming a really full character by the end of this play. And that’s something I’d like to see people take away as a positive message,” Shingoose added.
Williams said writing the play was a long process that involved combining two different plays into one and basing Shingoose’s character on young men he met while writing for SNTC over the years.
“I did some work with the SNTC in 2003 with a program they had called Circle of Voices,” Williams said. “And during that process I met these young men who worked with me. The oldest was in his early twenties. Most of them were already dads. They were these guys who really wanted to be good dads but they didn’t know how to be good dads. They didn’t have the role models themselves but they were trying like crazy,” Williams added.
“For me I try to make the characters as real as possible. Make them as truthful as possible,” he said. “I don’t address issues, specifically to make the point of addressing the issue. Theatre is a sense of telling the truth but you fudge the facts,” he added.
Williams said a large majority of those who come watch the plays are non-Native people, and he encourages anyone to come out and hear the stories acted on stage.
“I find theatre to be a very effective way of keeping stories alive… It’s someone on stage telling you a story. It’s a form of powerful media,” said Williams,
For people who don’t have a clue about Native life or Native stories, watching theatre is a good way to get an intro to that, he said.
“You see the perspective of people. This is not something you see in media, as being represented in media. But it’s very truthful,” he added.
Photo Caption: (Left to right) Actors Aaron Shingoose, Tantoo Cardinal, and Ntara Curry performed the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company production ‘Three Little Birds’ during its run in Saskatoon at the Persephone Theatre from March 3-13.