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Arviat drama club begins work on mammoth production

The John Arnalukjuak High School Drama Club in Arviat will be closing out the school year by performing the epic coming of age story Inuk and the Sun in June.

Drama teacher and play director Gord Billard said it will be a mammoth production.

Rising talent Cheryl Nibgoarsi, left, speaks with Francis Church (Noah Muckpah) while playing the title role of the John Arnalukjuak High School Drama Club's production of Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus on Dec. 14, 2017. Nibgoarsi has been cast in the lead role of Inuk in the club's production of Inuk and the Sun, which is scheduled to hit the stage in early June in Arviat. NNSL file photo

“It's, hopefully, going to be one of our biggest and most successful shows in terms of collaboration with the various classes, and the types of media we'll be using with the masks, shadow puppetry, projections, lighting and other special effects,” he said. “It's somewhat of a complicated play to pull together, and I don't mind admitting I'm a bit nervous about it.”

Written by the German playwright Henry Beissel, the story is based on characters from Inuit mythology and follows a young boy named Inuk as he journeys to save his people and become a man. The plot echoes the universal experience of growing up and coming to terms with life and death as Inuk and his father set off to hunt during the cold winter season.

The family and tribe are starving and Inuk is convinced that he must capture the sun and bring it back in order for all to survive. He faces great danger, loss and deprivation but is helped on his quest by several spirits including the wind, moon and sea. He also meets a number of animals that speak to him such as muskox, caribou and fox.

“(Beissel) is not an Inuk or Aboriginal writer – but he did study Inuit history and mythology,” said Billard.

The play will be performed during the first week of June, most likely on June 5 and 6, but the exact dates for the school shows and public performances have yet to be officially announced.

Billard said the show will be mythological and fantastical.

Inuk is pulled down under the sea by seals during his quest. The seals bring Inuk to a sea monster under the waves, where he also encounters Sedna.

“One of the things that has me particularly excited about doing this show is that our principal, Romeo Fournier, has our drama, art and music classes all scheduled for the same first period in the morning,” said Billard. “We will be using masks and doing shadow puppetry in the play, so the art class has been busy working on making the masks for the show. The music group will be trying to do all the background music, and there's all sorts of sound effects such as wolves and dogs howling, wind blowing and that kind of thing.”

Billard said having mostly live, created sound on stage during the production is a challenge he's confident the music group will meet.

He said the masks and puppets are being created by the art class, and he's looking after the acting and the overall production of the play.

“A lot of things have to come together,” he said. “I'm just starting to get my hands dirty with it all, but there's no doubt in my mind that making sure all the technical stuff is in place is going to be our biggest challenge in pulling this off at a level we'll all be proud of.”

Rising Kivalliq talent Cheryl Nibgoarsi has been cast in the lead role of Inuk, while Edith Issakiark will play Sedna, goddess of the sea and marine animals, and Andy Evaloakjuk will play the role of Inuk's father.

Innosar Issakiark is returning to Arviat from trade school in Rankin Inlet and will be playing the role of Spirit of the Ice, while Justin Suluk will be returning home from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to take on the role of the sea monster.

Both Issakiark and Suluk were sent scripts of the play, and they're expected to join live rehearsals this week.