Reclamation and Resurgence

Josh Languedoc answers the call to write stories for his people, about his people as a recipient of the 2020 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund

Josh Languedoc is a Anishinaabe playwright, theatre artist, and educator who grew up in Alberta, and has been writing plays since he was a teenager. Languedoc has toured across Canada with his solo storytelling show Rocko and Nakota: Tales From the Land. He is also currently studying at the University of Alberta, working on his Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Practices with a research interest in Indigenous playwriting and storytelling.

When he first began his creative endeavors, Languedoc says, he wasn’t really thinking about Indigenous stories, he was just interested in writing. But the exploration of his own identity has emerged as a key theme for his plays.

Now, as Languedoc explores his Indigenous identity, he recalls that growing up he didn’t see a lot of Indigenous representation in theatre. Shakespeare was lauded as the master and most of the playwrights studied were white Europeans.

About his own writing Languedoc says, “I would say the immediate word that comes to mind is like reclamation and resurgence. I just feel very called to write stories for my people about my people and stories that kind of honour their struggles, honour their way of living and their way of knowing, and making that a part of what we like to call mainstream theater.”

Vern Thiessen, an award-winning and prolific Canadian playwright, has worked with Languedoc since he was 15 years old and showed up at one of Thiessen’s classes at the Citadel. “I was dealing with lots of students at that point but Josh stood out because he was probably the first Indigenous student that I had ever had,” says Thiessen.

He nominated Languedoc for an award through the Edmonton Artists Trust Fund.

“He’s done a lot of different things in the community and is becoming a community leader, which is exactly what he should be doing at this point in time in his life in his career,” says Thiessen.

“I’ve just seen him come up as a young artist and grow, and not only into himself as a human being, but into a fantastic artist. And he’s really taken a big leap in the last couple of years,” says Thiessen. In particular, he has watched Languedoc flourish as he explores his people’s history and stories.

“There is a life-affirming nature to his work; it is joyful even when he’s writing the darker stuff,” says Thiessen. He also calls Languedoc one of the kindest people he has ever met.

Currently, Languedoc is working on multiple projects at once. One of them is a story that came to him in a dream. “I think we have all had this version of a dream where we are in someone else’s body … I had this dream where my consciousness was in the body of this really, really angry and really hurt Indigenous teenage boy,” says Languedoc.

The story is one that many Indigenous people may be familiar with and Languedoc is planning it as a solo show, for when it is safe to tour around again. The story will follow his character’s journey away from the reservation where he grew up and deals with the issue of suicide. “It is pretty heavy but something I feel very compelled to develop,” he says.

Languedoc truly keeps busy with his multiple projects on the go, as well as teaching workshops, and his studies at the University of Alberta.

Learn more about the EATF