slowly ascending spiral: an introduction by katey wattam
I first walked into the Imago office in the late summer of 2017. A few months earlier I had found a posting for their Artistic & Administrative Assistant position and eagerly applied. I was in fact, so eager, that I did not put it together that being a new graduate made me ineligible for the Emploi Quebec position. Later informed of that sad reality, I expressed my interest in directing and asked if there was anything I could assist on. They asked me if I wanted to be the assistant director of Imago’s Her Side of the Story: Revision to Resist staged reading festival. Eager as I was, I gladly accepted.
I remember sitting at the table across from Miche, when she asked me, “What is the next thing you want to direct and why?”. I went on to elaborately describe my vision for Jovette Marchessault's Night Cows–which included a cow skull mask and knitted udder bra–and professed my deep love of cows to her. Little did I know, she would later mentor me while I directed it through the MAI mentorship program. It was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that has been instrumental in guiding me toward developing my own practice.
As a director of mixed settler and Anishinaabe ancestry, I approach theatre as a way of mining bodies for their blood memory, uncovering experiences and traumas to reclaim and decolonize bodies, minds, and spaces. For me, drama has the capacity to make the invisible visible, it helps us see, hear, and feel the discourses of the world in a very human way. My relationship with theatre has grown into one that places me as a director, however, within my practice, I consider myself a storykeeper and storyweaver.
This past month I have been in Saskatoon assisting Algonquin Director Yvette Nolan on Ferre Play Theatre’s inaugural production of Atwood’s The Penelopiad–a play I was first introduced to during Her Side of the Story: Revision to Resist back in 2017 when I assisted Jen Quinn on it.
Revisiting the piece two years later with Saskatoon's newest womxn's theatre company under the mentorship of an established Indigenous artist right before I start my internship at Imago feels serendipitous; like an end and a beginning rolled into one.
Assisting Yvette has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the directing process and what an Indigenous theatre practice looks and feels like.
That flexibility should not be mistaken for weakness.
That behind softness lies a quiet brilliance.
That being an artistic leader
means negotiating the needs of everyone in the room,
what they bring in,
and how we can collectively serve the story.
For me, learning is not a trajectory;
but a slowly ascending spiral.