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The Edward Curtis Project

The Edward Curtis Project
Your Price: $24.95 CDN
Author: Marie Clements
Publisher: Talonbooks
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 160
Pub. Date: 2010
ISBN-10: 0889226423
ISBN-13: 9780889226425
Cast Size: 2 women, 2 men, with doubling

About the Play:

The Edward Curtis Project is a full-length drama by Marie Clements. When do you put down the camera and tell the real story? While on assignment in the far north, Angeline, a Métis reporter, stumbles upon a story that is so haunting she is unable to erase the images. It compels her to question the role of reporters as witnesses and the accepted notions of the strength and spirit of aboriginal peoples. Along the way she challenges the legacy of Edward Curtis, who between 1900 and 1930 created a photographic record of First Nations communities meant to preserve a "dying race" that never quite got around to dying.

The Edward Curtis Project began when the Presentation House Theatre commissioned Marie Clements to write a play that would stage the issues raised by photographer Edward Curtis' monumental but controversial achievement – to dramatize not only the creation between 1900 and 1930 of his 20-volume photographic and ethnographic epic, The North American Indian, and the enormous commitment, unwavering vision, sacrifice, poverty and ultimate disappointment it represented for the photographer, but also the devastating legacy that his often misrepresentative and imposed vision of the "Vanishing" Indians had on the lives of the people he touched.

Edward Curtis was a turn-of-the-century photographer who believed he was creating a photographic record of "the vanishing race of the North American Indian" when he made soft-focus, highly staged images of First Nations peoples. His romanticized photos serve as backdrop for Metis writer Marie Clements's investigation into the ways historical photography has became as much a projection of colonial attitudes upon Aboriginal peoples as it was an authentic record of their lives.

Upon receiving the commission, Marie Clements immediately asked photojournalist Rita Leistner to create a parallel photographic investigation of Curtis' work – to question the practice of documentary photography with the very medium under scrutiny. After two years of retracing Curtis' footsteps, travelling to First Nations communities throughout North America, Clements finally felt that between them: "We were making our own pictures out of our own beliefs and they were adding up. We were inside the lies and beauty of history, of gender and class, we were making a case for the future."

This collaborative work of two artists, to take Curtis' photographs to heart and to see who and what might live inside them today, resulted in a profoundly moving drama by Marie Clements, and a spectacular contemporary photo exhibit by Rita Leistner. Published together in The Edward Curtis Project, they illustrate the trauma that the notion of a "vanishing race" has inflicted on an entire people, and celebrate the triumph of a future in which North American First Nations communities "are everywhere and it is beautiful."

The Edward Curtis Project premiered in 2010 at Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver.

Cast: 2 women, 2 men, with doubling

What people say:

"The Edward Curtis Project, our choice for Gold at the Cultural Olympiad… I was moved." — The Globe & Mail

"Ambitious and wildly creative." — The Georgia Straight

"Powerfully Challenging … the design is superb." — Curtain Call

"Witnessing has its costs, its collateral damage. Artists run the risk of vicarious traumatization, but being forced to look is a far different act than forcing a look." — plankmagazine.com

About the Playwright:

Marie Clements is an award-winning Métis/Dene performer, playwright, screenwriter, director, and producer who has worked extensively in and across a variety of mediums including theatre, performance, film, new media, radio, and television. She writes, or, perhaps more accurately, composes, with an urbane, incisive and sophisticated intellect deeply rooted in the particulars of her place, time and history.

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