The Third Colour from Manitoban playwright Ian Ross just finished its first run at the Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE).
In an “absurdist dramedy” using clown-style comedy to discuss heavier topics of colonialism, trauma and reconciliation, The Third Colour sees two protagonists, two spirits in the form of Indigenous women, reflect differing and often conflicting conceptions of how to view Indigenous-settler relations.
The Third Colour poses integral questions of the Indigenous experience: “How did we get here?” and “What’s next?”
“Do we work within the confederation of Canada? Do we still try to make things happen there, or do we go on our own? That’s the question the play asks,” Ross said.
“I hope [audiences] look at themselves and their attitude and position within the country. Many of us are citizens. As First Nations people, we’re always kind of unique citizens because we didn’t see ourselves as being a part of Canada.”
When asked what he found most exciting about the process of making The Third Colour, Ross answered that “at times it seems like I didn’t write it. I’m sitting there in the audience kind of shocked by some of the things I see and notice.”
Balancing humour, absurdism and the grim reality of Canada’s history can become a high-wire act for some, but Ross embraces it as the very medium that allows him to have open discussions about important topics.
“I for one have never had the problem of disliking clowns that other people seem to have,” he said.
“I think clowning and buffoonery can be used in a lot of really amazing ways, especially when it comes to politics.
“It’s also something I use to disarm people,” Ross continued.
“I don’t want them to come to the show [thinking] ‘Oh god, this is going to be such a drag and heavy and blah blah’ […] To me, theatre should still be entertaining.”
Ross said part of the joy in creating art was the ability to connect with others.
“If you’re really specific in your art, you become more universal,” Ross said. “Art is something, I would argue, if it’s really good, it’s universal, because you can show it anywhere in the world and people will connect with it.”
The Third Colour ran from Oct. 2 to 20, and starred Kathleen MacLean as Head Full of Lice and Tracey Nepinak as Agatu. The creative team featured director Thomas Morgan Jones (PTE’s artistic director), set designer Andrew Moro and costume designer Brenda McLean. Lighting and sound design were done by Leigh Ann Vardy and jaymez, respectively. Brenda Watt was the Cree translator on staff.
Ross’s professional repertoire includes the plays The Gap, Bereav’d of Light and others, including the Governor General Award-winning fareWel.
He is also the creator and performer of the popular CBC character “Joe from Winnipeg.”
Ross’s next projects include plays discussing 9/11 and missing and murdered Indigenous women.