by Lynn on May 18, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., Toronto. Ont.

Created and performed by Jani Lauzon

Directed by Franco Boni

Environmental design by Melissa Joakim

Movement consultant, Julia Aplin

A deeply moving, eloquent exploration of what is sacred from the sky, the stars a pebble to a rock.

 The Story and production. Prophecy Fog by Jani Lauzon explores the question: “Can a site still be sacred if it has been desecrated?” Lauzon comes to the question with lots of experience and background. She is Métis and has had her mother, grandmother and elders to teach her to appreciate the world in which she lives: the air, rocks, water, sky, stars and earth.  She has been collecting rocks of all sorts her whole life. She says that each one has a story.

Melissa Joakim’s environmental design of the set is amazing in establishing Lauzon’s connection to rocks.  The audience sits in a circle in chairs or on pillows.  Inside the circle are bowls and bowls of rocks of various shapes and sizes from boulders to pebbles.

Lauzon stands in the centre, swaying and dancing on a round piece of red/orange material with spokes of material jutting out from it; it’s the sun I assume.  As the play goes on Lauzon upends the bowls of rocks, spreads them around the space, and even holds various ones up and tells us where she found it and what it means.  From her mother she learned that if you rub a rock in your hands and feel its warmth you will hear its stories.

Lauzon chose to investigate her question by going to the Mojave Desert in California, specifically to Giant Rock which had been revered and deemed sacred by the Indigenous peoples of the area. I believe Lauzon picked Giant Rock because it has been defaced with graffiti in spray paint and other materials and many of the writings are despicable.

In the theatre there is a bank of TV screens on one of the back walls for those of us lucky enough to face them so we can see video footage of the slogans that Lauzon took when she went to the site with her daughter.  (It’s unfortunate there isn’t another bank of TVs on the other wall behind us so that everybody can see what startling footage was taken of the trip.) “WHITE POWER” is sprayed across one side of Giant Rock; a swastika is right under it.  There are not just one or two slogans; the face of the rock seems splattered with this stuff. So when Lauzon was filmed delicately, respectfully passing her hand over the rock, even including those areas with graffiti on it, she illuminated the sacredness of the rock in spite of the desecration of it by some cretins.  She answered her question.

The moments in that film are all the more poignant because Lauzon in person plays a tubed instrument that when blown sounds like a flute: mournful, somber and so moving.

Lauzon is a compelling storyteller with a dancer’s grace. The piece is directed with care by Franco Boni. There are moments of stillness, joy, sadness and a real sense of wonder at her vast collection of rocks.

Comment. Lauzon sets up the lead up to seeing the graffiti so that we have a vested interest in any rock let alone a sacred one. We won’t look at rocks in the same way after this show.  And she will have her audience wondering about the question too.

The Theatre Centre, Paper Canoe Projects and nightswimming present:

Opened: May 16, 2019.

Closes: May 26, 2019.

Running Time: 80 minutes.

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