Savage Society is an Indigenous Arts organization dedicated to promoting the creation and dissemination of Indigenous stories.
Based in Western Canada, the artistic focus of Savage Society is to revitalize traditional Indigenous storytelling in contemporary times. Members of the Company are encouraged to tell their own stories using artistic mediums of theatre and film. The goal is to blend traditional Indigenous mythology and storytelling pedagogies into contemporary issues faced by its members and the broader Indigenous communities of Canada.
Savage Society was originally an ad-hoc theatre organization formed in 2004. The organization was founded under the leadership of Kevin Loring, an Indigenous playwright, actor, and producer best known for his award-winning play Where the Blood Mixes, which premiered at Toronto’s Luminato Festival on June 7, 2008.
The Company was initially created to support Loring’s own artistic practices. In order to promote Where the Blood Mixes, Loring partnered with Western Canada Theatre Company, The Playhouse Theatre Company, Luminato: Toronto Festival of Arts and Culture, and Magnetic North Theatre Festival in 2008. With the support of these companies, Loring toured Where the Blood Mixes throughout Canada. The play received widespread acclaim and cemented Loring as a powerful voice for Indigenous Theatre. In 2009, Where the Blood Mixes won the Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Original Script; the Sydney J. Risk Prize for Outstanding Original Script by an Emerging Playwright; and the Governor General’s Award for Drama. In 2010, Loring continued the presentation of his play by establishing partnerships with Vancouver Playhouse and Belfry Theatre. In the summer of 2010, Loring was commissioned to write a play for the 100th anniversary of the Laurier Memorial. His new play The Words of Our Chiefs was performed at this event and later toured to Kamloops.
Society Status and Company Change
Following the success of his tours, Loring decided to grow his organization into a larger scale theatre company. In 2013, Savage Society became a fully incorporated company with two offices - one in Vancouver, British Columbia; and one in New Westminster, British Columbia.
Loring challenges the negative definition of the word “savage.” When applied to the Indigenous population, the word “savage” has a negative connotation of uncivilized, unreasonable, and a substandard form of humanity. Loring’s choice to call his organization “Savage Society” is an act of reclaiming the word for the Indigenous community. Loring equalizes the use of the word by arguing a savage is a creature in nature. Therefore, because we all exist in nature, we are all savages. Borrowing from the English Oxford’s Definition of savage, “to attack fiercely,” Loring’s organization seeks to fiercely attack the systems of ignorance by challenging preconceived stereotypes of Indigenous communities. And so, Savage Society became a residence of authentic Indigenous storytelling that challenges audience understanding of Indigenous culture. Through this methodology of theatre creation, Savage Society advocates to reveal the facade of ignorance behind the concept of savage and empower the narratives of Indigenous communities.
Savage Society’s first major project was a collaboration with the New Pathways To Gold Society. In 2013, they created Songs of the Land, a multidisciplinary performance piece inspired from songs and stories of the Nlaka'pamux people of Lytton, British Columbia. It premiered that same year as part of the Lytton River Festival. This project was greeted with a warm response from community members. Following the success of this project, several additional projects were created, often involving community members of the Nlaka'pamux people. The Battle of the Birds (2015) featured collaborations with musicians and community members in exploring a Nlaka'pamux creation story of abuse and power. The Boy Who Was Abandoned (2016) was inspired by a traditional story of a child and the neglect of the elderly. The Words of Our Chiefs (2017) is a reimagining of the Laurier Memorial and inspired by Loring’s earlier play. The Council of Spider, Ant and Fly (2018) tells the story of animals living in a world without death. With the involvement of community members and the variety of stories presented, Songs of the Land has become an ongoing collaboration between Savage Society and the Nlaka’pamux people.
Between 2018 and 2019, Savage Society created two festivals that develop new work of Indigenous artists. The Skookum Indigenous Arts Series is a multidisciplinary festival that showcases new Indigenous talents and fosters the growth of theatre projects. Examples of new plays that have received development within this program include White Noise by Taran Kootenhayoo (January 13, 2018) and You Used to Call Me Marie by Tai Amy Grauman (November 8, 2018). The second festival, titled the Savage Summer Music Series, hosted a series of concerts featuring Indigenous music artists in the summer of 2019.
In 2020, Savage Society is producing two new plays as part of its first official theatre season. Skyborn is a one-woman performance written and performed by Quelemia Sparrow that premiered at The Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre). Described as a powerful and magical form of storytelling, the play features Sparrow traveling in a canoe to recover her lost soul from the land of the dead while receiving lost ancestral teachings. Temporarily postponed, Taran Kootenhayoo’s play White Noise is the second play in Savage Society’s 2020 series. This comedy, originally developed as part of the Skookum Series, features two Canadian families having dinner together during the week of reconciliation, and explores issues of internalized racism in Canadian families.
Savage Society has established a board of governance and retains a number of artistic staff. As of 2019/2020, the artistic team consists of Artistic Director Kevin Loring (Nlaka’pamux Nation) and Managing Producer Chelsea McPeake Carlson, who has been a part of the organization since the 2010 tour of Where the Blood Mixes. Savage Society also houses five artistic associates: Kevin Loring (Nlaka'pamux Nation), Quelemia Sparrow (Musqueam Nation), Tai Amy Grauman (Metis, Cree and Haudenosaunee), Ronnie Dean Harris (Sto:lo Nation), and Chelsea McPeake Carlson.
Facebook Page: @SavageProductionSociety
Instagram Page: @officialsavagesociety
Twitter Account: @SavageSociety33
YouTube: Savage Production Society
Vimeo: Savage Society
Profile by Josh Languedoc.
Last updated 2020-07-24