Fringe Theatre is honoured to welcome Josh Languedoc as our new Director, Indigenous Strategic Planning.
Josh has been a Fringe artist, performer, educator, and playwright for nearly a decade before joining us in this role on May 4, 2021. He is also a just-announced recipient of the 2020 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, an award that recognizes an artist’s work and contribution to the community and provides financial support to renew, develop, create, or experiment – congratulations, Josh!
Fringe provides a vibrant year-round home in Edmonton for local, national, and international artists at all stages of their careers to present theatre arts that challenge audiences and celebrate the cultural fabric of our communities. Fringe is a safer space for brave conversations around racism, Indigenous rights, legacy colonialism and neo-colonialism, and other topics vital to the wellbeing of our artists and community members. Read on to learn a little more about what we’ll be working on together.
We announced our search to fill this new position in early spring, but the Director, Indigenous Strategic Planning role was first conceptualized over five years ago as part of Edmonton Fringe’s efforts in reconciliation with Indigenous communities and to create more robust structures and networks for equity-seeking artists. This role and its intent, aims, and duties were developed through mindful consultation with Indigenous leaders, and intentionally connects Treaty 6 territory’s relationship with Edmonton Fringe Theatre.
In the coming months, conversations will continue with Indigenous artists, community leaders, creative partners, and stakeholders. Josh will lead these initiatives and develop recommendations for changes that Fringe Theatre and all our indie-producing partners can implement in the short term (1 year), mid-term (3-5 years), and long term (5-10+ years).
Some of these changes will focus on growing Fringe’s capacity to hold space for Elders and Knowledge Keepers to guide processes. Governance and work structures will be evaluated, and Fringe staff will be supported in understanding and developing their own self-location statements. Our commitment to the 35//50 Initiative will also continue to be supported through recruiting Indigenous board members, staff, and volunteers.
We caught up with Josh after his first week to chat about his first impressions and ambitions.
“What inspires me about entering this role is that the Fringe itself is about building,” said Josh. “This is my first major opportunity to apply a lot of what I’ve been learning in theory – social and institutional change – and bringing it to focus on building change through people.”
Josh is a proud member of the Saugeen First Nation and brings with him nearly a decade of experience in engaging with youth. He has also taught at various Edmonton Public School institutes, most frequently at Caraway School which provides programming for mixed-age groups to foster co-operative skills and a strong sense of community.
“I’ve also been in the University of Alberta’s Master of Fine Arts program for the past two years as a thesis candidate focusing on Indigenous playwriting and Indigenous theatre creation styles. I’ve learned an incredible amount during that time and will be finishing my thesis in the next few months. So this role comes at the perfect time to apply those lessons.”
Edmonton Fringe’s Artistic Director, Murray Utas, described one of the central principles that will guide the work in partnership with Josh.
“The original ideal of the Treaty is that everyone stands in a circle of mutual understanding. There’s nobody behind you, or above you,” Murray emphasized. “When we’re able to meet in that circle with openness and honesty, we can accomplish great things together.”
When asked what he would like fringers to keep in mind as they return to theatres and continue to enjoy online content, Josh invoked the seven generations philosophy.
“I’d like people to consider what happened seven generations ago, generally and specifically, and reflect on how we might continue to feel the effects today. Then consider what you can do today so that we can ensure the next seven generations can live, create, and play the way we do now.”
Josh will be developing a venue for knowledge sharing and weaving connections this summer as part of Fringe’s 40th anniversary. The hope and dream is for this to be physical and in-person.
In the meantime, he welcomes questions, input, and knowledge sharing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We gratefully acknowledge BioWare for their generous support in the creation of this role, and Fringe’s Indigenous Theatre program.