Ahousaht actor performs in Indigenous production of Father Tartuffe | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Ahousaht actor performs in Indigenous production of Father Tartuffe

Vancouver, BC

An Indigenous focused theatre production coming to Vancouver will feature Nuu-chah-nulth actor Danica Charlie.

Charlie, who lives in Vancouver, is from the Ahoushat First Nation on her dad’s side, and of European descent on her mom’s side.

Charlie said she hasn’t been to Ahousaht since she was a kid and grew up in Victoria.

She’s playing Maryanne in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Father Tartuffe: An Indigenous Misadventure.

The play is an adaptation of Molière’s play Tartuffe and follows the adventures of an Indigenous family whose father invites a priest from Montreal to live with them in their home.

Playwright Herbie Barnes, from Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island, said the story takes place in 1967 in a time when First Nations just recently got to vote and just seven years after they were considered citizens of Canada

“The father of the family has decided that he wants his family to learn the white man ways, as my grandfather did with my mother,” Barnes said. “He brings home this priest from Montreal who’s going to teach them religion. [The priest] is nefarious and he’s more interested in trying to seduce the wife of this man. It’s people being fooled by this priest and it’s a comedy, it’s fun, it’s a farce.”

Barnes said he was inspired to write an adaptation of Tartuffe after seeing the play. He wondered why anybody would be fooled by the priest, and reflects that his mother was persuaded to learn the white language instead of her own Indigenous language.

“I really wanted to adapt that piece because I saw our voice in there,” Barnes said.

All but one of the cast of Father Tartuffe is made up of Indigenous actors.

Barnes said he’s noticing more and more Indigenous representation in theatre and writing.

“When I started out…35 years ago there were very few (Indigenous actors) and you could easily say, ‘Well, I’ll just use a guy that looks native,’ and that’s not allowed anymore,” Barnes said. “There’s sort of this push for ‘nothing about us without us’.”

Although Barnes wrote the play, he is not directing it as he lives in Toronto. But he did suggest Musqueam artist Quelemia Sparrow to co-direct and be an Indigenous voice behind the scenes.

Danica Charlie is playing Maryanne, the daughter of the family.

“She is super in love with her boyfriend that she has been with basically since she was a kid,” Charlie said. “They are supposed to be getting engaged soon but that kind of doesn’t work out because of Tartuffe.”

Charlie grew up as the shy kid in school and found that theatre was the perfect outlet to be more outgoing through the characters she played on stage.

“I found it a really great way to express myself and I just stuck with it,” she said. “I did it through elementary school, middle school and then high school I was in drama and musical theatre.”

After high school, Charlie attended the Canadian School of Performing Arts and graduated in 2021.

“Basically since I graduated I’ve been working professionally,” Charlie said. “This is my first time performing with [The Arts Club Theatre]. They are a very reputable theatre company in Vancouver so it’s definitely a big accomplishment for me. It’s been one of my career goals since getting out of school.”

Charlie said being an Indigenous actor can sometimes feel like you are a “token cast”, but she is seeing more Aboriginal representation in theatre lately.

“You’ll look around the room and you’re like, we’ve got one Indigenous person, one Asian person, one black person,” said Charlie. “So sometimes you can kind of feel tokenized but I think things are changing and it’s becoming a bit less of that.”

Father Tartuffe runs from Feb. 22–March 24 at the Granville Island Stage, 1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver. More information can be found at artsclub.com.

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