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The War Being Waged

By Darla Contois

One Indigenous family.
Three women’s stories.

75 minutes

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Content Warning:
This performance contains descriptions of physical violence, suicidal ideation, anti-Indigenous racism, inter-generational trauma, MMIWG2S, alcohol consumption, incarceration, and gun violence.


About The show

An Indigenous mother becomes an activist while her brother becomes a soldier. A grandmother raises a child with love, in community. A granddaughter full of turmoil, finds her voice. Three generations of Indigenous women are woven into this new work by Winnipeg-based theatre artist Darla Contois. And three performance genres tell their story – monologue, poetry with video and movement, and contemporary dance – all tied together by the playwright’s story and an all-encompassing set design that has built a world for all three to live inside.

The film was made in collaboration with Ice River Films (Winnipeg) using a multi-camera setup. It was filmed over three days before the opening of the play to live audiences. What’s interesting about this as an online experience is that it allows the viewer an experience that is completely different than the live production. It invites an intimacy and a perspective that is unique to the film. When the play was presented live, it was on a thrust stage and audiences would view the full production from one of three sides. With the film, the audience is invited to see the play for all sides and angles.

Filmed October 28 – 30, 2021 at the Cherry Karpyshin Mainstage Theatre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Treaty 1 Territory.

Tansi, Nitooteemuk? Niwihowin Wasakahaw Mikisu Iskwew, otherwise known as Darla Contois. I am a proud Cree/Salteaux theatre artist from this beautiful territory we share.

The story you are about to experience is incredibly personal to me. It is based on one of my deepest fears, my experiences, as well as a response to one of the most important questions we ask ourselves as Indigenous people: “What are you fighting for?”

In it, you will find remnants of real people, real conflicts and real relationships. I hope you’re ready to listen with an open heart.


-Darla Contois

The journey of this play has been astonishing.

It began as a poem.
Then came a short story.
Then came the idea of dance.  

Then came all of the collaborators and artists who, for months on end, have been meeting to dream, to discuss, and to feel our way through the material.
At these meetings, performers would give design insight and ideas.
The playwright wrote design prompts.
The choreographer would express through music or sound.
The sound designer would play with sound and the recorded voice.  

All of us together, dancing through our individual craft, but more importantly through our humanity.  

Everything you will see on stage has come about as a result of deep conversation, a supported and lengthy process, and a level of vulnerability that is almost impossible to describe. It is an act of community and an act of love.

It is a story of three generations that is told in three performance genres. Together, it becomes theatre. It is a story narrative, it is an emotional narrative, and it invites us all to think about the past, the present, and the future, colliding all at once in this moment.  

And it is all for you. Welcome to The War Being Waged.  

– Thomas Morgan Jones

PTE – December 2 – 12, 2021
Native Earth – March 1 – April 3, 2022
PTENational School “Tour” – March 15 – April 20, 2022
StratFest@Home – May, 2022 – May, 2023
Transform Cabaret – March 28 – May 28, 2023

A challenging, unsettling, exquisite story of the lives of three Indigenous woman in the same family told with grace, dance and powerful understatement. The War Being Waged is a stunning piece of theatre. Darla Contois has created a story that is familiar, harrowing, compelling, nuanced, full of love, grace and art.  – Slotkin Letter

The futuristic physical space is transformed by Moro’s light and projections. Natural elements envelope the performers—cascading water, dust motes caught in light, floating embers that dance through the air.   – Istvan Reviews

The force of this production comes from the brilliant combination of colour, sound, narration, music and dance. – Onstage Blog Reviews

Special thanks to Coco Stephenson for allowing MJ Dandeneau to use a portion of his music within her composition

The film of The War Being Waged was made with the generous support of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, and the Canadian Actors Equity Association

Prairie Theatre Exchange is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and engages professional artists who are members of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, under the terms of the jointly negotiated Canadian Theatre Agreement.

Study Guide

Prairie Theatre Exchange

Theatre is essential to the health and growth of communities, offering insight into the human spirit. Theatre informs, educates, entertains, challenges, shocks, questions, and illuminates. Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE) was born with these ideals in 1972 and has become a centre of excellence for contemporary theatre and drama education.

While nationally recognized, PTE is deeply rooted in community and has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba. Manitobans trust PTE to ensure that full voice is given to the finest artistic talent our region and our country have to offer.

Our vision is to be vital, relevant, and responsive. We strive to be a centre for innovation in theatre and performance practice: a home for interdisciplinary and diverse works. We are a home for artists from the Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and beyond. We prioritize professional development for artists in the Prairies. We are a contemporary professional theatre company which reflects the ever-evolving communities and audiences we serve with artistry, confidence and heart.

Land Acknowledgement

Each season, we prioritize making space for Indigenous stories. This is our answer to the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To make space, to support, and to be led by Indigenous collaborators. This is our way of honouring Treaty 1 Land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Dakota and Red River Métis nations and the home of many other Indigenous nations and Peoples. We further recognize that our drinking water comes from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, where residents do not have access to clean water. All of us at PTE are committed to reconciliation, and to moving forward, together, in a good way.

Photo of Tracey Nepinak

Tracey Nepinak - Performer

Tracey Nepinak is truly grateful to be back performing live again in Winnipeg. The last two years have deepened her appreciation for our theatre community; playing Dori in Katharsis during lockdown for Prairie Theatre Exchange was just not the same without a live audience. Tracey recently returned from Stratford this summer playing Philomena Moosetail in The Rez Sisters. Other recent credits include: Rae Anna in Honour Beat (The Grand London & Theatre Calgary); Agatu in The Third Colour (Prairie Theatre Exchange); Crazy Bone in A Brief History of Crazy Bone (Theatre Projects Manitoba).

Photo of Emily Solstice Tait

Emily Solstice Tait – Performer

Emily’s practice is rooted in contemporary dance but happily crosses into theatre. She is of mixed settler and Ojibway ancestry (Berens River First Nation) and her dances have enlivened The Manitoba Museum, The Forks National Historic Site, and the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Past favourite performances include Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers Actualize (Ming Hon), moi, suel·e (Théâtre Cercle Molière), Confluence (Raven Spirit Dance) and dancing on frozen Lake Winnipeg in The___ Place with CBC Arts.

Photo of Tantoo Cardinal

Tantoo Cardinal – Voice-over

Tantoo Cardinal is an award-winning actress of Indigenous descent who was most recently seen on the ABC Television Network series Stumptown, playing Sue Lynn Blackbird. A Canadian native, she has appeared in over 120 film and television projects over the course of her 48-year career. She is a multi-award-winning performer (including a lifetime achievement award by the Canadian Screen Awards), a Member of the Order of Canada, and a recipient of the 2020 Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award – Broadcasting and Film. Her credits include numerous plays, television programs, and films, including Legends of the FallDances with Wolves and Black Robe. Television credits include SEEWestworldLongmireMohawk GirlsFrontier, and Blackstone. Theatre work includes playing Gertrude in Hamlet, Regan in King Lear, and Pelajia in The Rez Sisters.

Photo of Thomas Morgan Jones wearing a black t-shirt

Thomas Morgan Jones

Thom’s work has been seen on stages across Canada and internationally. This is his fourth season as Artistic Director at PTE. He most recently directed Yvette Nolan’s Katharsis, Hannah Moscovitch’s Post-Democracy and Ismaila Alfa’s VOICE (with Cherissa Richards) on the PTE stage. Other PTE directing credits include: Happy Place by Pamela Mala Sinha, Ghost Light by Shawn Wright, Finding Wolastoq Voice by Natalie Sappier, The Third Colour by Ian Ross and By Grand Central Station (A Heavy Bell production).

Photo of Darla Contois

Darla Contois – Associate Director

Darla Contois is a Cree-Salteaux performer and playwright. She graduated from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre’s training program in 2014, attended David Smukler’s National Voice Intensive and premiered her solo show White Man’s Indian at @summerworksto 2017 in Toronto, where she was awarded the Emerging Artist Award. Darla has since been living and working professionally in her home territory Treaty One; facilitating arts/storytelling workshops, mentoring Indigenous youth, acting (including Happy Place at PTE), writing and starting a family.

Photo of Andy Moro

Andy Moro – Set/Costume/Lighting/Projection Design

Andy Moro is an interdisciplinary artist and co-founder of ARTICLE 11 (A11) with Tara Beagan. Recent production/stage design includes The (Post) Mistress at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Ministry of Grace for the Belfry Theatre (Victoria), The Third Colour for PTE, Finding Wolastoq Voice at Theatre New Brunswick/PTE, Dancers of Damelahamid’s Flicker, Minowin, Spirit & Tradition (Vancouver) Unnatural and Accidental Women at National Arts Centre’s Indigenous Theatre, many works with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and most recently SkyDancers for Montreal’s A’nó:wara Dance. A11’s most recent theatrical work, Deer Woman, premiered at the Kia Mau festival, in Aotearoa and has met international acclaim – it will be presented in its digital form as part of PTE’s 2021-22 season in April.

Photo of Brenda MacLean

Brenda McLean – Costume Design

Brenda McLean is a Winnipeg theatre artist creating theatre on Treaty 1 Territory. She is excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Andy Moro on the costume design for The War Being Waged. Brenda recently co-directed/co-choreographed Love and Information with her independent theatre company Theatre Incarnate and Company Link. Upcoming, she is developing a new work with Green Kids Inc. called Bike and Circuses, an outdoor, environmentally-minded family show for June 2022.

Photo of MJ Dandeneau

MJ Dandeneau – Composer/Sound Design

MJ Dandeneau is a French Métis and Anishinaabe kwe woman from the Red River Nation. Her mother’s side comes from the Métis Red River Valley (île-à-la-Crosse) and her father’s side comes from Penetanguishene, Treaty 61. She is an accomplished bassist, director, sound designer, composer and producer. She has worked and toured with various artists worldwide for the past 16 years. You can see MJ’s work in MTC’s production premiere of Bitter Girls, MTYP’s Charlie Brown’s Double Bill, Torn Through Time, Tiny Treasure, Frozen River, the PTE productions of Katharsis and The War Being Waged, Sarasvati’s production of Songidemwin and the Théâtre Cercle Molière premiere production of La Liste. Dandeneau is very excited and honoured to be part of this production, under the talented direction of Thomas Morgan Jones. Chi Miigwech, Maarsii.

Photo of Jera Wolf

Jera Wolfe - Choreographer

Born in Toronto, Canada, Dora-winner Jera Wolfe is a choreographer and performer of Métis heritage and is an Associate Artist with Red Sky Performance. Jera was the official Canadian choreographer for NBS’s Sharing Dance Day 2020 and co-choreographer for 2021. He was also the Ontario Ambassador for International Dance Day 2020. His works include Bare choreographed on Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Trace by Red Sky Performance, FLOW by Red Sky Performance, Arise for Canada’s National Ballet School, Embers for Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Reliance for Ryerson University’s School of Performance, Begin Again for Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, and Soul for The National Ballet of Canada. Jera graduated from Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

Photo of Karyn Kumhyr

Karyn Kumhyr – Stage Manager

To be able to take the lessons, trauma, insights, difficulties, and challenges of this time forward feels full of interesting possibilities for change. I’m grateful to move out of this pandemic working with such an amazing team of creative artists, exploring social justice through this extraordinary new work! During this unique time period I have been able to stay connected through work with the Shaw Festival, PTE’s virtual production of Post-Democracy, the film industry, and the Rainbow Harmony Project. I look forward to once again sharing theatre with a live audience.

Photo of Michael Duggan

Michael Duggan – Assistant Stage Manager

Michael is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg, and worked previously for PTE on Ghost Light, New Magic Valley Fun Town, Fly Me to the Moon and The Birds and the Bees. Other recent credits include Meet Me at Dawn (Theatre by the River); The Mountaintop, The Color Purple (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre); The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare in the Ruins & Théâtre Cercle Molière); and A Year with Frog and Toad (Manitoba Theatre for Young People).

Photo of Aileen Audette

Aileen Audette – Make-up Artist

Happy to be back with PTE after working on their production last season of VOICE. Aileen has been a professional Make-Up Artist for 10+ years. A graduate of the U of W’s Honours Theatre and Film, she completed Vancouver Film School’s Make-Up and SFX program in 2018. She has lived in both Canada and Australia and does freelance make-up and special effects for film, photoshoots, and events. She has worked with Green Kids, Winnipeg Independent Theatre, MAC Cosmetics, and Schminken FX.

PTE Production Team

Wayne Buss! – Production Manager

Elana Honcharuk * – Props Master

Brenda McLean * – Head of Wardrobe

Sean Neville – Technical Director

Cari Simpson * – Head of Lights & Sound

Steven Vande Vyvere * – Head Carpenter

* operates under a contract with IATSE Local 63.

Production Crew for The War Being Waged

Lighting:  Patrick Bellemare *, Eric Bossé *, Jenna Brown *, Denise Dela Cruz*, Ian Kirk *, Andrew Sanger *, Evan Wohlgemut *

Scenic Painter: Shauna Jones *

Wardrobe: Claire Sparling (Cutter) *, Chris Black (First Hand/Builder) *

Emily’s Hair: Eve Rice

* operates under a contract with IATSE Local 63.

Ice River Films  
Sam Vint – Director
Sam Karney – Director of Photography
Jonathan Lê – Editor
Rudy Gauer, Andrew Wiens -Camera
Kevin Bacon – Audio