This is an excerpt of Sonya’s monologue from the Indigenous adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by Floyd Favel and performed by Sabina Sweta Sen-Podstawska. This video was recorded by Adam Podstawski. Originally the adaptation took place on the Poundmaker Reserve, on the land by a lake. This excerpt was recorded in a park in Chorzow, Poland as Sabina tried to remember and recreate the original performance to demonstrate the use of Plains Indigenous Sign Language (PISL) in indigenous performance. Some of the PISL used in this excerpt are: time, before, know, woman and the dance mudras from Indian classical dance Odissi, incorporated are: flower, bird, mirror. The gestures, action signs from the sign language and dance mudras are used according to their original ways but also as impulses and half formed gestures that originate in the body as it connects with the land through movement. In this process, traditions, cultures and languages meet: English and Bengali language in a Tagore song meet the Plains Indigenous Sign Language and mudras from Indian classical dance Odissi.
Excerpts from Uncle Vanya:
This video presents excerpts from an Indigenous adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by Floyd Favel as a tale of colonization. It was part of performance training workshops and festivals organized by Miyawata Culture on Poundmaker Reserve in Canada in the summer of 2018 and 2019. Participants included artists, theatre directors, performers and academics from Canada and Poland. The video was recorded and edited by Noah Favel. The adaptation focuses on a healing journey of two protagonists: Uncle Vanya and Sonya. Sonya returns back to her home and land to honour her beloved uncle on his funeral. As she enters the abandoned house, she encounters the memories of her own lost soul, younger Sonya who is stuck in the old house along with the spirit of her deceased uncle. According to Indigenous shamanistic beliefs, one of the major causes of life’s illness is we leave a part of our spirit behind, that does not grow. Re-living the story of colonization offers a healing process for Sonya and sets free the uncle Vanya’s spirit.
About the Practitioners:
Sabina Sweta Sen-Podstawska, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Silesia in Poland, holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Exeter, an MA in South Asian Dance Studies from the University of Roehampton in London and BA-MA in English Literature and Culture from the University of Silesia in Katowice. Her research interests embrace sensory-somatic awareness in Odissi dance, body-mind relationship, somatic studies, and psychophysical training and performance, minority cultures, and dance and performance of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. As a dancer and performer, she continues her embodied explorations through Odissi dance crisscrossing disciplines and mediums.
Floyd Favel is a theatre theorist and Cree cultural leader based in Saskatchewan. He studied theatre in Denmark at the Tukak Teatret and in Italy with Jerzy Grotowski. He has developed his own theatre process he entitles ‘Native Performance Culture’, or NPC. He is the curator of the Chief Poundmaker Museum (winner of the 2018 International Indigenous Tourism Award). In 2020 he was awarded the Multi-Cultural Leadership Award in Saskatchewan. He produced a documentary on the Delmas Indian Residential School which opened the Presence Autochtone Film Festival in Montreal in 2021.