Mask and Theatre
When I spent the summer working the fish boats in Alert Bay BC, a Kwakiutl reserve on the north coast,
I met many Aboriginal mask carvers and was taken to a Potlatch ceremony, a powerful piece of theatre staged by firelight in
the long house where Tsonoqua The Wild Woman of the Woods was summoned by chanting and drum to enter the lodge.
Various dancing masked characters participated in the ritual - masks of various creatures such as: Wolf, Bear, Deer, Mosquito.
It was a very powerful and primal experience of what the ancient beginnings of theatre must have been like.
I have taught Theatre History beginning with a brief preface describing processions, solstice ceremonies and other rituals as in "History of the Theatre"
(O. Brockett) which preceded the development of Greek drama.
Enabling dedicated acting students to understand this connection between early ritual, and drama as we know it, has been very important to me.
Threaded throughout my forty years of work in theatre have been experiences with various Aboriginal tribes (culminating in my work with the Inuit in the High Arctic as theatre director for the film "The White Archer").
Coming from a rural background, raised on a farm with potato famine Irish ancestors who fished and hunted from necessity and learned this from the
Native people here, my roots are in the earth and my rhythms those of the seasons.
It was therefore a natural progression for me to find a great affinity with the North American Aboriginal way of life.
Conversant with North American urban structure, comfortable speaking about or demonstrating my work on radio and television, enjoying a certain fame with my solo show
(which played all the major art centres in Canada and the first two New York international clown festivals),
I am nevertheless deeply aware of the function I fulfill as an artist - one that is not far removed from more ancient times of ritual and storytelling theatre gatherings.