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Staged with an all‑aboriginal cast, the 2012 production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear at Canada’s National Arts Centre creatively reimagined the play in a frontier New World setting. Directed by Peter Hinton, and starring August Schellenberg (Mohawk) as Lear, the production placed Shakespeare’s drama in seventeenth‑century Canada, amongst a group of Algonquin people on the outer edge of European colonialism and cultural contact. The idea for this resetting of the play originated with August Schellenberg—some 45 years ago—who thought that Lear would be particularly adaptable to an indigenous / First Nations setting. That it took nearly half a century to realize that vision says much about the difficulty of getting mainstream audiences and theater companies to consider the inclusion of indigenous peoples in cultural activities outside of often stereotyped and limited representational roles. By placing an all‑aboriginal cast on stage at the National Arts Centre in the capital city of Ottawa, this unique production of King Lear intervened in a cultural discourse that has marginalized and excluded indigenous voices from the national arts scene.


About the Cover Artist: Janet Kaponicin is an Algonquin artist who currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. Her birchbark and acrylic painting, The Spirit Behind Parliament, appears in the artwork cycle on our WWO Scholarworks home page. Of the original painting, she wrote the following statement in 2004:

My grandmother, Angelique Kaponicin of Kitigan Zibi, told me a story when I was young, about a tragedy that happened to one of our ancestors. Some Algonquin people were camped at the Chaudiere Falls in Ottawa at the time when British soldiers were stationed there. A young woman was out walking along the river and she was captured by the soldiers; they raped her then killed her by impaling her on a tree branch. When her family retrieved her body for burial, they cursed the land there, declaring that nothing good would ever come from it. It was just below the site of our current Parliament Hill. I did this painting so the story would not be forgotten. - © Janet Kaponicin (2004), and reprinted from the Algonquin Trading Post by permission of the artist. We are grateful to Aimee Bailey of the Algonquin Trading Post for supplying us with a digital photograph of the painting.