At Play With the Collective: All My Relations Take on Collaborative Theatre Work


All My Relations

“Gizhibaa Giizhig | Revolving Sky” (Courtesy of All My Relations Collective)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor

I was first introduced to the All My Relations Collective through a discussion they held for the University of Utah Department of Theatre last fall. Immediately, I was in awe at how such smart and creative theatre artists could hold the shared space of Zoom in reverence. It’s an energy they carry through all work they do, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. AMR is a collective of theatre artists driven by a mission to create new practices in artistic spaces, exposing their biases and honoring collaboration, driven by the core collaborators — Ty Defoe, Kate Freer, Lux Haac and Marika Kent.

Kent’s professional background is in lighting design — her portfolio spans the gamut from plays and dance performances to puppetry — but with the collective, she takes a hand in shaping their offerings from all aspects. In attempting to decolonize and deconstruct the hierarchical aspects of the theatre space, all of the collaborators take note and chime in on all pieces of the puzzle. Navigating this type of creative work, Kent says, has called upon all of their individual skill sets and allowed for, “a whole different rhythm, a whole different structure. We’re developing our piece alongside developing a whole new creative practice.”

Sharing Stories

While their offering entitled “GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky” was first taking form in 2019, the Collective soon had to respond to the worldwide shut down in March 2020. This disruption to the theatre world transformed what had been workshopped in public spaces into a fully virtual presentation. “In a way, it feels like we’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years working on this project, and in another way, it feels like there are certain parts of it where we are just getting started,” said Kent. The offering takes on a three-part structure described by Kent as, “You play, then I play, then we all play together.”

The virtual performance that patrons of UtahPresents recently witnessed was what is considered the second piece of this offering or the “I play” piece of the puzzle. In this presentation, Defoe embodies Zhooniyas, a queer, two-spirit shapeshifter who is separated from their family and engages with the stories of the cosmos. There is a throughline of self-discovery and interconnectedness inherent in the tale, as the mythology of stars and constellations spans eras and cultures and boundaries, with an ability to tell the story of an indigenous, queer person connecting with their ancestors. 

The first component of “GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky” is called the Star Stories Archive, a collection of spoken retellings and personal stories of those connected to the mythos of the stars. When their offering is safe to share in-person, the Collective presents a lighting design where constellations cast upon the walls of the room can be scanned with your mobile phone to connect you with the stories and mythologies of certain stars, all stored in their app created for this piece. Kent pointed out that what has emerged in this time of theatre shutdown is dismantling the idea that theatre is something that is “delivered” to an audience once and doesn’t continue to evolve in response to those who have engaged with it. “As an audience member, you are part of the development of our work. You are not just a passive listener and this isn’t just your response in isolation or in a void, but it is part of our process and part of the life of the story,” she said.

In Response

While COVID-19 has changed the way that this “You play” aspect can be presented, the Star Stories Archive itself is evolving as All My Relations visits different communities where their performance is workshopped. “It feels like a way of creating a kind of constellation, that all of these different people, across all of the different places that we visit, are connected by this story, but their stories are these own individual stars,” said Kent. “The Star Stories have a potential to keep growing along with our piece, to keep new life in it long after it’s created. I think it’s cool that it can stand on its own, whether or not you are able to see our piece.”

The third aspect of “GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG” isn’t currently being offered to patrons, as it’s something that can only take shape in shared space. The Collective plans to facilitate community story circles — part talkback from the performance of Zhooniyas, part communion of our shared experiences underneath the stars. “We’re not just interested in telling you our story and jumping ship, but we see this as a way of planting a seed of community. In making a piece of theatre, we’re building bridges, we’re creating dialogue, we’re being in community together,” said Kent. She continued, “When we say that we are ‘All My Relations,’ it’s because we are now relations.” It is an artistic community like never done before.


You can stay connected with All My Relations and the work of their collaborators through their website. 


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