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Are we on the precipice of our ultimate demise, or our ultimate regeneration?
That’s one of the questions that multi-hyphenate artist and scholar Lisa Cooke Ravensbergen is asking in the immersive audio performance The Seventh Fire, taking place during this year’s PuSh Festival.
“I feel that theatre is a colonial agent and that it occupies us, because it is a colonial form at its heart. ” says Cooke Ravensbergen, who has Ojibwe, Swampy Cree, English, and Irish ancestry. “And so every time we enter a theatre space or rehearsal hall or anything like that, we're essentially re-colonizing ourselves.”
The Seventh Fire has been about 20 years in the making, which has molded the performance into its current iteration from a story that had once been meant for a theatre production with filmic aspects. The switch to an auditory-first experience was a conscious one.
“So I feel complicit myself, as a theater artist, in that lineage of story, and re-storying for me is part of what this piece is about; to resituate and replace and reclaim our sensorial relationship to who we are, and who we are to each other.”
In The Seventh Fire, attendees will be invited to move around the space, sitting or laying down where they’d like while experiencing the story of grandmother Nokomis and sisters Daanis and Nimise. The venue, The Lobe, is a spatial sound studio that uses 4D sound to create omnidirectional sound environments—ideal for a story told mainly through sonic means.
“There's no show that exists like this in the world because the content of the work and the source material inside this exquisite sound studio … really does invite people into an experience that, right now, doesn't exist anywhere else,” Cooke Ravensbergen muses.
While Cooke Ravensbergen doesn’t want to give away too much about the story being told in The Seventh Fire, she was happy to give some context to the performance’s name.
According to her, The Seventh Fire comes from a prophecy that the Anishinaabe have been speaking of for generations.
“It tells a story of beingness and the disruption of that through colonization, and then a reclamation and a time of choice where we can choose our own destruction or we can choose regeneration; not just for ourselves but also for the Earth and relationships,” she says.
The idea of us currently being in the Seventh Fire, which precedes the eighth and final fire, results in a time of choice: to continue down the path of a terrifying world, or to choose one of optimism and of hope.
Cooke Ravensbergen hopes that the performance will encourage people to find the latter.
“There’s just so much darkness in the world. I feel like this piece is my love song, or a love note to the future. My hope is that folks will come to the show and that they will share that experience with the others in the room and that they will, through that story but also just through the sensation of being in that in those elements together, water and fire and land and mind ... that people will have a sense or be able to reconnect in a new way to the medicine that lives inside them,” she says
“That medicine is knowledge, or it’s language, or it’s gifts, or skills. The kinds of things that are unique to each of us that can help us collectively co-dream a future that we all need, so that we can collectively, from within our own agency and individual sovereignty, be able to say, ‘This is what I can do to light that Eighth Fire that will ensure that the world, the future, will be grounded in mino-bimaadiziwin—a good life.’”
The Seventh Fire takes place from January 25 to February 5 at Lobe Studio. Tickets are available online.