Thursday, May 27, 2010

whooo! where I am pooped by the evil queen

Ok folks - it's the night before the big show! The kids are doing amazing things, the story has come together, we even have COSTUMES, and I am tired. I'm feeling really good, much better than I was at this time last week - there is hope, being are being real nice, things are in good shape (including myself). I am just pooped, that's all.

Here is an update on the Puppet Project - in the form of the script for the play and some photos from after rehearsal today. The script will be narrated in Inutittut and English, and maybe even French if I can pull it together tomorrow - but the beauty of this piece is that it's visual theatre, and therefore visual, and you can pretty much get the story even if you don't hear the words.

But anyway - here are the words, in English -

The Happy Ever After that Almost Never Was

One day, the Queen and everyone were out picking flowers and berries.
Two thieves found the princesses crowns and STOLE THEM.
A huge wind blew everyone away, except the Queen, and a witch appeared.
The witch cast a spell on the Queen.
The next day the maids tried to help the Queen.
The princesses discover that their crowns are missing.
The evil Queen sends the princess to the dungeon.
The bunny tries to help the princess escape.
The bunny meets the princess's dog.
They make a plan.
With LOVE we can break the spell!
The spell is broken.
Everyone lived happily ever after...maybe.

Thus, you have the bare bones of our story. Unfortunately for you all - you don't get to see the hilarious Samantha being the witch, or Savaana who can't stop laughing try to clean the windows, or just how funny the cat and the dog are as they chase each other around through the audience. It is a really strong piece of work made up by girls in a remote northern community ages 7 to 15, and I am so so so proud of them and of how it's come together. WOW!

No wonder we're all so tired!

And here are some photos - I'm going to try to take more tomorrow during the rehearsal, so we have a record of the action - but this'll whet your whistle.

So clearly, this is the evil Queen, complete with sparkly crown...

After I cleaned up the workshop, I had to take a photo of most of our set and the evil Queen just hanging out...ahhh, so restful!

This is a shot of the witch's spell from backstage - secrets revealed!!

Ok - I'm going to crawl home now and make something to eat. Tune in soon for more on the play, and wish us all merde and broken legs and wonderful times tomorrow!

nerdy outy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

hoo-hah - did I need this!

This amazing gem is from one of my total mentors Teacher Tom - CHECK IT!

So - I'm homesick. REALLY homesick.

I usually get this way, which is why I don't often travel. And this is the longest I've been away from my home on a trip in about ten years. It's been a real gift to get to be up here and experience life in a remote community - I have learned SO fricking MUCH being up here - and the project is continuing to do pretty well - facing challenges and time-crunches and all the day-to-day crazy-business of a regular community arts project...and I want to go home. Which is totally ok and fine and natural for me, and I'll use it to fuel the next week (which will be bonkers as last weeks always are) and we are going to have a really great time. And THEN, I get to go home.


I'm feeling both elated and a bit down-in-the-dumps, which is why Jessica's encouraging messages to herself are so exactly what I needed right now. And maybe you do too.

Due to the long weekend, I've had a bit of an enforced vacation, and don't have anything to show you of the project that you haven't seen already since I haven't seen the kids since Wednesday (Thursday all programming was canceled due to a death in the community). I've done a few things for our set (you'll see once the kids get their hands on it), but I've mostly worked on relaxing, going for walks and getting things ready for this week.

Here are a couple of photos just to remind you of where I am...wandering around some of the bones of the planet waaaaaaaayyyy up north -

This was taken on Saturday, on a ramble on the rocky hills out behind town, and this...

...was my walk yesterday. Wow.

Ok - enough for now, I'll post more about the play as the week progresses!

nerd out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

wow! shadow puppets!

Today we finally got to playing around with some shadow puppets - the thing I was most excited about bringing up here! The kids ooohhhed and aaahhhed at the light and colour and I was deeply gratified by that.

Here are some photos - of all kinds of things...

Here we are making some shadow puppets for up against the screen, and on the overhead projector...

...and here's some beautiful playing around with shapes and colour.

Over the past few days we have really banged out the important points of the story of our play - and almost have a script. Here's a photo of me trying to map out the points and some of the action. As you can see, it's the age old story of good Queen turned bad by witch's evil spell, missing crowns, heroic bunnies and dogs and, of course, thieves and servants. Eat your heart out Disney - the kids at Innalik Public School are kicking your butt!

I have been through this process no few times, and I love it when the story grows organically out of the participants imaginations and art. Really, this story grew out of the masks the kids made - and all this reminded me of Teacher Tom's recent Pre K Play - although we've had a lot less role-switching than he did. A LOT of bunny masks were made (for some reason) and they all mutated into other things like villagers and castle workers, and the thieves just turned up out of nowhere one day, causing a huge and awesome plot twist.

Let's not forget the days (and days and days and days...) of effort spent on getting the handpuppets together. Here is a photo of a few in action - at some point in the play, all the villagers get blown away by a strong wind while out picking flowers - and I think we're going to do that with the hand puppets, as they all turned out to be pretty much regular looking people, with the odd dog and bunny thrown in to boot.

Yes! I love the stylish hair on all of them.

My dear friend Jane has run programs like this for year in Toronto, and has documented an amazing continuum of imaginary development in children. We have laughed and laughed at the regular re-occurrence of heroic animals and princesses wrongly accused. The kids of Inukjuak aren't any different, and it's a treat to see those common themes of childhood running so strongly across cultures.

Ok - enough for now, more shadowy goodness tomorrow - OH! Except for at the end of the session, because we'd spent so much time in the dark, the kids wanted to tell ghost stories instead of play games, and so we turned off the lights again and pretty well instantly had 24 kids screaming for the next 15 minutes. SOLID. Ha!

Shadowy nerdness out!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

arctic springtime - and more snow

Just wanted to let you all know that yes, springtime is on it's way here in Inukjuak, and I have photo evidence to prove it.

Here are some tundra plants that I took pictures of on an amazing and uplifting walk on the weekend, on a balmy springtime day...

...and now, just a few days later - more snow.


What a sense of humour the nature has up here!


nerd OUT!

Friday, May 14, 2010

whoooosh - and a week goes by in a flash

I can't believe that it's been a week since I posted - I'll blame sporadic internet access and a very busy time - and it's only week TWO!
We continued working on our masks - and some pretty amazing creations have been coming alive under our fingers.

Here we're using papier-mache to build our masks and in the next photo we're cutting out the eyes. I feel really good about encouraging these kids to use tools, and do things for themselves - a few of the younger ones start out by saying "I can't do it!", but after some encouragement to do it on their own I often get to say "Hey! You said you couldn't do it but you did!" I LOVE saying that.

Masks are really incredible things - you get to make whatever kind of face you choose! Even before they're painted, they are fun to put on and feel different.

We painted the masks with a base coat of white paint - to cover up the print of the Scholastic catalogues we used in the papier-mache. That base then frees us up to be able to use all kinds of light or dark colour to finish off our masks.

We've been playing some pretty awesome games too. The girls from Kangirsuk taught us a game called Mrs. Mumbles, where you make a face like someone without their dentures and try to ask the person sitting next to you "Have you seen Mrs. Mumbles?" without peeing your pants from laughing. It took us almost a half an hour to make it all the way around the circle when we played this, and some of the girls were laughing so hard they were crying...

We also started making some hand puppets - sculpting heads out of more Scholastic catalogues and masking tape, covering them in papier-mache and painting them.

This is what the hand puppets will look like - head and body together - and some may even have clothes!

And these are some of the heads in process - some painted and some on the way...

It is still very amazing being up here. The snow last weekend was a bit of a twist, as my home rhythm is full of daffodils and tulips and springtime. Add to that a dramatic northern event - last Thursday a man was lost out on the tundra. AND THEN IT SNOWED FOR FOUR DAYS. Early Monday morning however, he was FOUND. He'd spent the blizzard out in the elements, keeping close to his snowmobile (it had run low on gas, which is why he got lost in the first place) and had burned parts of his t-shirt to stay warm. He's apparently fine, and was on the radio telling his story that very morning.

Ummmmm. Wow.

This is something that happens to people up here. Makes me not want to leave the school.

Ok - one last thing. Since the puppet project is only open to the kids in Grade 3 and older, over the past few days I've been working with the Grade 1s and 2s in their classes making paper-bag puppets to include them, and to also get a bit of a little kid fix. Working with older kids and youth has been pretty great - but I've been missing the younger ones - being in school has really gotten me into a groove.
The sessions were only a half an hour long, so there wasn't much time to take many photos, but I'll leave you with this monster that I used as an example, and inspired several creatures with pointy tongues and multiple eyes.

Nerd OUT!

Friday, May 7, 2010

hah! it's SNOWING! Welcome to the Arctic...

Hello May 7th - it's snowing!

Last evening, on the way home from the school I took this photo of some really beautiful clouds.

I should have guessed that they were carrying something special for us. I was chatting with a woman in the Co-Op yesterday who said that February and May have swapped places!
The Co-Op was for a long time the only commercial centre in any Northern community. It's a huge department store, carrying everything from groceries to hardware to furs to carvings to bicycles - here in Inukjuak there are the Co-Op and the Northern - a chain store that provides another choice. The Co-Op is pretty cool - it's home to the bank, the Post Office, Hunter's Support, and a carving shop.
Anyway - back to the present that the clouds brought us - SNOW. I don't know why I'm so surprised - we were told to expect this kind of weather...but still! It's pretty hilarious to hear about t-shirt weather back home and then not be able to see across town because of the blizzard here.
It's hard to see in this photo - but fine snow is drifting down and blowing all over. The boy next to the snow mound in the schoolyard has tied a rope around his waist to pull the little qamutik (snowmobile sled) he's got behind him.

Thinking thinking thinking about learning up here - what is appropriate, what is needed, what the expectations are and need to be...huh. No easy answers, and I'm lucky as I'm an option - presenting a choice to participate in something fun and enriching (hopefully!). Onwards...

Nerd (brrr!) out!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

masks week...and more thoughts

This week has turned out to be pretty much about masks, which is great, and the kids have made some really beautiful things. But before we get into the masks, I'll tell you a little preschool story.

I was walking out to the waterfall on Tuesday before heading for the school, and I saw a group of really happy kids off the side of the road. They looked so happy that I had to go talk with them. It's kinda hard to see them in this photo - but it does show the land nicely...if you click on it you can see it better.

Annie and Elsie had brought their 4 and 5 year olds out to pick last years red berries, freeze-dried by the winter. Everyone was smiling and scampering around picking exquisitely tart berries (I tasted them - kinda like cranberries) and having a good time in the sunshine. Talked with them for a while, and I may go on over and do some puppet stuff with them too - it was really great to be around younger kids, and made me realize how my life has really focused in on preschool, and how comfortable I am with that age-group in particular now. It felt AWESOME!

But then, so did the rest of the week, pretty much...

We continued working on our paper plate masks, elaborating them and coming up with rudimentary characters...such as Qulliq's cat...

and others...

We played some fun games this week too. The group is still all girls, although we had one boy come and play some games with us, but he couldn't convince his friend to come in so he ended up leaving, even though he was really having a great time - I could tell by his huge smile. Things are pretty gendered here, which is cultural...and when I think about it, I'm glad to be providing something different for the girls to get up to. I have a feeling it's a bit weird for them to have a male educator showing them this stuff - and I think that's pretty great. World wide there is such a challenge to ensure girls are even allowed ACCESS to education - so I feel pretty good to have about 28 of them coming to the workshop.

The first two photos are of a mirroring game, where kids in pairs follow each other, build body awareness and create physical vocabularies. The last photo is of a new game to me - the kids call it Snakes and Ladders, and it's a relay race we played in the gym today. The kids sit with their feet touching in a long ladder-like line, and one by one pairs race each other to one wall, around the ladder, and then as fast as they can up the ladder to the next pair and sit down. The first side to complete it wins. WOW! Lots of enthusiastic screaming to this one.

That big face in the background of the first picture has some potential - we'll see what it becomes. I made it this afternoon to show the kids what else we could do. And look at all those bins!! Those are our once lost, now found treasure boxes - thank goodness we found them, their contents have already made the workshop a million times better.

This is how the papier-mache masks progress - we build them on plaster casts of faces from previous years - alternating paper to make them strong and also so we know which parts we've done. Then we build up different features on the mask and do a final layer on top of that to seal them all in. Tomorrow hopefully everything will be dry, and we can cut eye-holes and paint them! Zowee!

I'm feeling more at home here...and becoming more friendly with both teachers and folks around town - walking everywhere and smiling at my good fortune to be up here experiencing all this really helps.

Ok - supper time - more soon!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Inukjuak catch-up, training week ends and the first day of puppets

Welcome back to Inukjuak, everyone! This sign is outside of town on the road to the airport, and I thought it fitting to start off this mega-post with it. I have a lot of photos and a lot of things to say, tell you or tell myself I don't really know.

It is so amazing up here - it is warmer everyday, and although it freezes every night, the snow is disappearing at a crazy rate. It's spring in the North, or getting close to it.

We ended the training week with a big feast on Saturday, where vegetarian me and my fellow artists made CARIBOU STEW and various other things, and ate RAW FROZEN CARIBOU, too. I knew coming up here that this trip would require a different sort of diet than I keep at home, and so far the experience has been truly amazing, and un-pass-up-able. When will I get to eat this kind of food again? I'll tell that story another time, but first I want to tell you about the rest of our week getting to know each other and sharing skills.
Lisa, our fearless leader, really did a great job getting us all riled up about our respective programs, and we played games and did hands-on workshops every day for hours on end. We amassed a pretty hefty list of fun games, and shared puppet-making, shadow puppet, play-making and movement skills with each other and the other facilitators.

In my last post, there was a photo of us working on an art activity - it was an earth blanket, a concrete vision of what makes a good learning environment. This is what it looked like when we were done - pretty awesome, hey? So many colours, textures and viewpoints.

We did a shadowpuppetry workshop, where I got to show some of the great things I've learned from all the amazing shadow and light artists I've gotten to work with. Isa did some cutting on a scenery piece that we made of Inukjuak - maybe I'll get a photo of it to put up on here - it's pretty magical.

The next day Natasha led us through a movement workshop and it was pretty hilariously fun - we did some great non-dance dancing! As you can clearly see, we are boogieing down to our own choreography.

The next day we worked on more puppets, this time sculpting paper with masking tape and covering it with paper-mache. As you can see, we totally rocked it, and our birds are very very great.

Isa's hummingbird kinda takes the cake. He took it home to hang up for his 5 month-old daughter to play with.

So that was the training week pretty much - we gelled as a group and got some pretty great hands-on knowledge. Over the rest of the weekend, we hung out together wandering around Inukjuak until folks left for their various destinations - Lisa back home to Fredericton, Natasha and the girls to Kangirsuk, and today those of us left here in Inukjuak dove headfirst into our own program.

Today was a pretty great day - yesterday I did a ton of setting up, as I mentioned yesterday. Came in this morning to finish up, and we got underway this afternoon, after school. We had 24 KIDS come!!! We had one boy, but he was 13 and the sheer number of girls was too much for him I think. We're going to work on finding some other guys to work with him, and give him some more advanced puppet work to do - maybe he'll be our shadow puppet guy! We'll see.
We played games and spoke all three languages all the way through, as we have kids who either only speak French or Inuttitut. Most of the kids are in Grade 3 and 4, and that suits me fine. We'll figure out ways of involving the younger kids - but since most of the work will happen after school-hours it makes for way to long a day for them. We'll figure it out.

We made really simple masks out of paper plates, to ease us in to creating and masks - tomorrow we'll decorate these and put them on and maybe even break into groups to tell some simple stories with tableaux. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, things went pretty smooth - HOORAY! Having three other folks facilitating with me sure helps - yay team teaching (in three languages no less!)

The photo above is the Inuttitut syllabic alphabet. It was brought to Nunavik by a minister in the 1800's, and is the same symbols used in written Cree. The fact that the community contains three languages is pretty wild, and pretty significant too. There is a real collision of cultures going on, each with it's own priorities, expectations and values, and school is one place where it's really evident. Announcements are made in three languages, and a lot of work is put into finding common ground between all three to make a place for learning and teaching to happen. It is so so so so sooooooooo complicated up here - I am constantly thinking about it, and really am blessed when I realize that my teaching team reinforces this common ground searching. Pam, Isa and Louisa Louie (the older teen assistant) are all Inuit, and that makes a huge difference - I can't imagine trying to do this without them.
So I'm putting a lot of thought and energy into making this accessible to everyone, and am grateful that kids are pretty much kids all over - we all like to create, tell stories and have fun, and that's common ground I can build on.

I'll leave you with some more photos of Inukjuak - stunning, beautiful and wild place!!

This is where the school has me staying - my own two bedroom pad! Half of this house is mine while I'm here, and it's turning out to be a bit of a haven for me.

This is the view of the Bay and the Island, just south of town. All that white is water, and may melt while I'm here. Then Inukjuak becomes a lakeside village.

A shot of downtown Inukjuak.

3 crazy artists - Lisa Ross our fearless mastermind, Natasha Eck Kangirsuk artist extraordinaire, and me.

This is the beautiful waterfall on the opposite side of the airport from town. We walked there with Lisa when she flew back home on Saturday - it's so beautiful I want to go visit it as often as I can - and I can! It's only about a 35 minute walk.

Ok - enough - I've been in the school for almost 12 hours today! It's time to go home and make supper and collapse. Wish me luck for the upcoming days, and I'll post more soon!

Nerd out...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

here we go!

Whooo! I'm tired!

Yesterday we finished our leader training program, and started scattering either back down south or to our respective communities - I'm the lucky one who gets to stay here all by myself in a community pretty well prepped for this project. YAY!

We took Natasha and the Kangirsuk girls to the airport today, and then I came into the school (YES! On Sunday!!) to prep the room and unpack all our once-lost but finally found supplies bins (another big YES!). The room is sort of ready, and I still have tomorrow morning and afternoon before we launch the first workshop out into Innalik School waters.

I wish I had more staying power right now, to put up pictures and tell you more...I will soon, but I'm going to go back to my house now, have supper and relax to get ready for our big day tomorrow!!

Wish us luck!

nerd out.