Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Lisa Cooke Ravensbergen’s latest creation generated rave reviews in Vancouver, and soon her immersive audio theatrical piece titled The Seventh Fire will be presented to Toronto audiences.
The Seventh Fire, inspired by Anishinaabe stories and oral traditions, is gearing up for its run at the SummerWorks Performance Festival, which runs Aug. 3 to Aug. 13.
The Seventh Fire will have a total of 14 shows over the course of five festival days, Aug. 3 to Aug. 7, at Toronto’s Aki Studio.
The Seventh Fire features voices representing two sisters and their late grandmother’s spirit. Cooke Ravensbergen, a member of Long Lake #58 First Nation in northern Ontario, voices one of the sisters. Tasha Faye Evans, a Coast Salish artist living in Port Moody, B.C., has the speaking role of the other sister. And Margo Kane, a Cree/Saulteaux performing artist, voices the late grandmother.
The Seventh Fire had its world premiere this past January and February at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Lobe, a Vancouver-based studio.
“We built that show for that studio space,” Cooke Ravensbergen said.
The venue included 37 speakers. “It’s a spatial sound studio with a permanently integrated 4D sound system.”
She said “it’s the first of its kind in North America.” Two other similar studios are in Germany and Hungary.
The Seventh Fire was also performed at Lobe in Vancouver during the Talking Stick Festival, which ran June 27 through July 2.
The SummerWorks shows at Aki Studio will feature 11 speakers and will be used to tweak The Seventh Fire for touring. The hope is to have the production mounted at various other venues, including at the Lobe spaces in Germany and Hungary in the coming years.
“What is exciting and what we’re grateful for is SummerWorks is allowing us to test out a touring set for the show,” Cooke Ravensbergen said. “We obviously cannot bring the Lobe studio on tour with us.”
Cooke Ravensbergen stresses the uniqueness of the production’s structure and content. It touches on residential school survivors and the Sixties Scoop, so it’s recommended for those who are nine or older.
“This is a show that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” she said.
It takes place in the past, present and future. Audience members who choose to do so can simply sit in their seats and listen to the performance, but if they desire they are also welcome to stand, lie down or even move around to immerse themselves with the sounds of the production.
Cooke Ravensbergen said the show was well received by those who attended its two festival runs in British Columbia.
“They loved it,” she said. “What also is really nice is we have people in the space in the audience who make sure that everybody is comfortable.” This includes offering audience members blankets or mats in an effort to make them feel more at home.
“From the very beginning you’re invited into a space where you are asked to become one of those stars in the sky,” Cooke Ravensbergen said.
She’s confident Toronto audiences will have similar positive experiences as those who took in the production in Vancouver.
“We are hoping those that do come to the show will feel comfortable and immerse themselves into it,” she said.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.