Sprouts Festival for children mounts three new plays

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Preview
Sprouts Festival
Concrete Theatre
May 19 to 20
Westbury Theatre
ATB Financial Arts Barns
10330 – 84 Ave.
Tickets: $8 Children under three free

Josh Languedoc has traveled a long way since his teenage acting days with St. Albert Children’s Theatre.

Only in his early thirties, the First Nations playwright is quickly developing a reputation across Western Canada as a voice for Indigenous people.

Unafraid to tackle tough topics, his name rose to prominence after receiving a Banff Playwrights Colony scholarship to develop Starlight Tours.

It is based on the true story of 17-year- old Neil Stonechild, an intoxicated Indigenous youth who was picked up by Saskatoon police officers.

In an unsanctioned action, policed dropped Stonechild at an out-of-the-way point during bone-chilling temperatures to sober up. Stonechild died as a result of police actions.

On a less visceral topic, Languedoc presents his 10-minute children’s play, Wolf Runner, as part of Concrete Theatre’s 17th annual Sprouts Festival running May 19 and 20 at ATB Financial Arts Barns.

“Sprouts is the first time I was commissioned to write a play and got paid. It’s really cool,” Languedoc said.

Artistic director Mieko Ouchi explains that, “Sprouts lets new playwrights present their work in a low pressure situation. It’s a test drive for playwrights, a chance to see how children react.”

Wolf Runner is based on an Indigenous tale of how dogs became man’s best friend. Through his research, Languedoc discovered a tale of how a young boy and his dog go into the woods to face the Flying Head of the Forest, a creature that consumes everything in its path.

As boy and dog try to escape the wrath of Flying Head, the dog sacrifices his life to save the boy.

“The dog will forever be best man’s friend and the two take care of each other.”

In Languedoc’s story a young boy is found in the woods and adopted by a mighty warrior.

The young boy desires to emulate his father as a great warrior. However, he is afraid of night howlers sporting dark fur and sharp fangs.

“But he wants to face his fear and become a great warrior. He faces his fear, not just for himself, but to protect his village,” said Languedoc.

One thing, the playwright would like audiences to absorb is that “Fear prevents us from listening. Without giving away the ending, the boy goes out to face his fear and discovers the power of listening.”

Ouchi commissioned two additional playwrights. Holly Lewis launches Sisters and Jason Chinn explores Screen Time.

Sisters is about sibling rivalry. It’s really a physical performance as we see two sisters compete with each other through a series of games. They’re very competitive, but they work through their competitiveness.”

And in Screen Time, Chinn explores society’s obsession with anything remotely resembling a screen – TV, cellphone, computer or iPad. And that worrisome obsession is not just limited to children, but adults as well.

Although each play is very different on the surface, Ouchi believes they have a commonality.

“The kids are looking for connections and it manifests in different ways. In Sisters there’s a yearning for a relationship with the other sister. Screen Time is about a family finding time for each other, and Wolf Runner – it’s about a boy desiring to connect with his culture. I love the sense of connection, and they are all relatable in some way.”

Actors Collin Dingwall, Morgan Yamada and Jaimi Reese perform in all three productions.

Doors to the Arts Barns opens at 1 p.m. with face painting, singing and crafts. Showtime is 2 p.m.

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.