Actress Leze Pewapisconias of Little Pine First Nation in the role of Helen in the Trojan Women.


In theatre, there is perhaps no greater cornerstone for historical reference than Greek tragedies.

A pillar upon which Western entertainment has built much of its iterations, the influences of these works are arguably everywhere. It’s in part what motivated Floyd Flavel, organizer of the Poundmaker Performance Festival, to include his version of the Greeks’ Trojan Women in this year’s festival.

Started in 2018, Flavel wanted to build a festival from the Indigenous perspective that promoted the inclusion of all cultures.

With The Trojan Women — one of the plays in this year’s offerings of performance, presentations and cultural lectures — Flavel and his team found it of particular interest for an Indigenous iteration that promotes the matriarchal perspective.

“It’s based on the importance of women in society and that’s now Indigenous were and are to this day,” said Flavel.

Themes of freedom and self-determinism are central to Flavel’s play. In the original by Euripides, Hecuba the Queen of Troy supports the punishment of Helene by her husband Menelaus of Greece. In Flavel’s play, Hecuba’s message to Menelaus is that he can’t impose his ways here.

She insists he has been invited to their lands and been taught in the ways of the matriarchy that they are not ruled and owned by men.

If the festival’s offerings are front and centre in their deeply informed and academic renderings, it is because Flavel himself is an astute student of the theatre arts, having spent time in Denmark and Italy after finding his heritage was deterring him from being hired for work in Canada

While his festival, in essence, has become what Flavel couldn’t find when he was seeking work, he added Indigenous communities are still not generally included in productions.

“I thought theatre was a universal art,” Flavel recalled thinking as a 19-year-old when he would be viewed as only fit for “native shows.” Following his thread of curiosities about Western art and civilization led him to Greek drama.

The works were ideal for reinterpretation as there are few stage directions and therefore it would be adapted for Indigenous methods for storytelling.

But the beauty of art is that the story is never finished being told. Even long after it has been published, screened for the masses, and performed for the enthusiasts of the performance art.

The Greeks, who themselves had a heated rivalry with the Persians of the Great Persian Empire, were adept in the tales of generous Persian grandeur and diplomatic expansion.

One such noted example is the facilitation of Persia’s Cyrus the Greater in having liberated the Jews from Babylonian Captivity and facilitating their safe return to the promised land.

This year’s festival also includes cultural lectures such as those on Cree philosophy and worldview, it presents performances of poetry and spoken word, and presentations on Indian sign language, with a generous emphasis on food and gathering among its festivities.

“That is the source of my investigation,” said Flavel. “To make Indigenous performance and artistic genre open to all people.”

The Poundmaker Performance Festival and Plains Indian Sign Language Workshop takes place July 18 to 21 at the Miyawata Culture Site at Poundmaker Lake, about 40 kilometres west of North Battleford. For tickets and more information visit

By: Kimiya Shokoohi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix