Marie Clements rocked the house last night at Club PuSh with the premiere of The Road Forward, a multi-media blues-rock musical developed by Clements' and Michelle St. John's red diva projects, and featuring an original score by composer, musical director, and performer Jennifer Kreisberg--who together with St. John and fellow diva Cheri Maracle make up the work's girl power vocal soul. Originally created as a 9-minute piece for the closing performance of the Aboriginal Pavilion at the 2010 Winter Olympics, The Road Forward has since been expanded into a full-length evening that mixes traditional drum songs with Clements' and Kreisberg's newly commissioned set-list, and even a few adapted classics--including a rockin' version of "Lady Marmalade" on which St. John, Kreisberg, and Maracle all get to vocalize like there's no tomorrow.
As Clements tells us in the program, The Road Forward was conceived in response to her discovery, at the offices of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, of 40 years worth of archives from The Native Voice, a newspaper that chronicled and advocated for change in Aboriginal communities across the Americas from the 1930s to the 1970s, and about which Clements knew next to nothing. Archival images from the newspaper--many of them sourced and collected by my student Rachel Braeuer, who served as a research assistant on the project--are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage throughout the performance, and Clements and crew also make a direct link--in images and song--to the role that social media are currently playing in the Idle No More movement, with a live Twitter feed scrolling across a drum face downstage left.
It was a truly moving and galvanizing evening, one that needs to be repeated. I hope that The Road Forward returns (either to PuSh, or to another venue/festival) soon, and also that it tours. It deserves as wide an audience as possible. For the time being, I celebrate Clements' immensely generous vision and achievement, and the supporting roles that both my favourite performing arts organization and the Department of English at SFU (where Clements is currently writer in residence) played in bringing about last night.