Hunter: My name is Hunter Cardinal, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m a sakāwithiniwak (Woodland Cree) actor that’s passionate about creating stories that all peoples can find themselves in.
Jacquelyn: My name is Jacquelyn Cardinal, pronouns she/her, and, like my brother, I’m sakāwithiniwak or Woodland Cree. These days I describe myself as an Indigenous technologist on a mission to explore how to use old and new tools together to create a more Indigenous future.
What is your Fringe story?
H: The Fringe has always been a part of my life. One of my earliest childhood memories happens to be of the Fringe festival actually; I have such a strong memory of being surrounded by laughter, being so taken by street performers, and to be totally honest, the strongest piece of this memory is totally the smell of green onion cakes.
It wasn’t until I started acting in my teens that I related to the Fringe as a gathering place to engage in my craft and learn from performers from across the world. This feeling has only grown in recent years when we staged our ﬁrst play, Lake of the Strangers, in the Backstage Theatre in early 2019.
J: Shortly after moving to Edmonton when I was 6 years old, I was lucky enough to participate in KidsFringe as the sidekick “Knave of Hearts” to my aunt’s “Queen of Hearts”. I remember being absolutely delighted by my costume, the hustle and bustle of the Fringe grounds, and (like Hunter) the many delicious-smelling foods. In the years since, the Fringe has been a critical staple of enjoying each Edmonton summer!
If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to fringe with you, who would it be and why?
H: Oh, I can easily answer this one for both of us: Our mom, hands down! She’s literally the best audience member because, as a performer, she’s right there with you every step of the way. When I’m on stage, I can always hear her and my sister laughing the loudest. PLUS she’s a major foodie so we’d ﬁnd the best food trucks.
For those who don’t know, you have both been working on a new project, “Lakes & Streams.” What was the inspiration for this production?
J: Well first, “Lakes & Streams” is a response to the impacts we’ve all been witnessing COVID-19 have on the arts. This time as meaningfully affects artists’ livelihoods and practices given necessary health restrictions. On top of that, it’s also damaged our ability to connect to each other as a community.
Second, Lake of the Strangers is a story that means a lot to our family. Since we produced it back in 2019, we’ve really come to miss the story and the characters. So, when our close friend and collaborator, Murray Utas, approached us as he was ﬁguring out what the Fringe might look like this year, showcasing the tools an artist might need to make art safely during times like these, we jumped at the chance to innovate with him.
If we can help people ﬁnd connection through this project during this time when we need it most, that will be the most fulﬁlling thing.
What is something you have learned while developing Lakes & Streams?
H: I’ve learned so much that I couldn’t have predicted at the start of this process. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is just how important visualization is when acting for ﬁlm over theatre. I’m needing to push myself toward clearly picturing the idea I’m trying to communicate in my mind’s eye in order for that idea to come across on video. It’s such a mental workout – almost like an intense meditative practice.
J: I’d have to build oﬀ of what Hunter said. As a writer, this process has been quite the journey for me as well. With this new medium, I’ve been learning just how little I need to have the actor explain things to the audience. With ﬁlm, there is so much that we can show rather than tell. It’s been a fantastic learning experience.
What was a place or event that transformed your ideas, thinking, or perspective in a new way?
H: I think, for both of us, it had to have been when we learned about Indigenous astronomy from the knowledge keeper and elder, Wilfred Buck. It was pretty mind-blowing for us at the time because the stories that we were learning for certain constellations were actually thousands of years old.
J: Absolutely! What really resonated with me was that those stories are said to exist in a sea of other stories and teachings that have yet to be created for our time. In that moment, I realized that my brother and I are still a part of that ongoing process of creation and storytelling. It really made me feel connected to both the past and future.
What is something you are learning right now?
H: One thing that I’m learning right now is how to make homemade baguettes! Since the pandemic, I picked up the hobby of baking and it’s been such a joy. For me, there’s honestly nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning.
J: Totally, and for me, I’ve been learning how to get the most out of the backyard this summer. We actually found a portable ﬁre pit that makes little to no smoke! Most nights you can ﬁnd me enjoying a bonﬁre out there. We’re so ready for this summer.
If joy became the national currency, what kind of work would make you wealthy?
H: I think we’d probably team up – my bread making hobby and Jacqui’s ﬁre making skills!
J: One hundred percent. We’ve been experimenting with roasting all sorts of things over the ﬁre lately, but I think we found our favourite thing yet.
H: Yep – cooking bannock over the ﬁre! We found the perfect dowlings that let us wrap the dough around it to cook it. With the even heat from the new ﬁre pit, it’s amazing.
J: Deﬁnitely. There’s nothing that brings us more joy than food and family.