Artists  ∕  Interviews  ∕  Theatre

Q+A with Lake of the Strangers’ Hunter Cardinal!

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This weekend, we’re welcoming Fringers back with the first event of the 2021/22 Season: Lakes & StreamsThis two-part event December 10-11 takes place in the Westbury Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns OR in your living room on FringeTV.

On Saturday night, December 11, we’re bringing you a one-night-only in-person and livestreamed performance of Hunter & Jacquelyn Cardinal’s award-winning production, Lake of the Strangers. This gorgeous tale of two brothers first debuted on our very own Backstage Theatre in 2019. Now, it’s back for an adapted production, designed and staged for both an in-person audience in the Westbury Theatre and an at-home audience on a screen near you.

The December 11 performance of Lake of the Strangers will have ASL Interpretation available for in-person attendees, while at-home viewers on FringeTV can select to have live captions for their viewing.

We caught up with performer and co-creator Hunter Cardinal to talk about the process of developing Lake of the Strangers for this exciting live-meets-digital event.

Q: In your own words, tell us about the story of Lake of the Strangers.
Hunter Cardinal (HC): Lake of the Strangers follows the story of two brothers on their last fishing trip before the summer ends. But, at its core, it’s a story about how we move through life, carrying the things that we love and learn, and then letting go when it’s time.

Q: The show is set in Sucker Creek First Nation, where your family is from. What does it mean to you to tell this story based on that land?
HC: Oh, I love it. I think doing this process has been really reminding me of how much I love who I am from. And every time we do this show, it feels like a love letter. And I just love it. And I love spending time with this story, because it feels like I’m becoming closer with my family.

Q: Speaking of family, how has it felt revisiting Lake of the Strangers with your sister, Jacquelyn, and with many returning team members, plus some new artists in the fold?
HC: It’s been wonderful. Jacquie, as the playwright and creator of this story, really just brought so much depth and richness to this telling of the story. And that’s only added by the brilliance of the rest of the team. And personally, I feel absolutely spoiled working with the folks that we have on the show, because they’re just bringing so much heart to it. It’s really special.

And I really love the collaborative nature of this process, too. Because it’s, like, me just standing on all of this incredible work that’s been done. And we’re all doing it with the same purpose of just trying to share the story. It’s not about, you know, one person doing a really good job. It’s not about one element shining through. It’s how can we, as a full creative team, really transport people to this story, to this place, so that they can feel like part of the family. I’ve been loving every part of it.

Hunter Cardinal in rehearsals for Lake of the Strangers (2019).

Q: For anyone who saw Lake of the Strangers when it was in the Backstage Theatre in 2019, will they be surprised by this new adaptation?
HC: I would say that seeing this performance will be like running into your cousins, and just being so surprised and proud of how much they’ve grown.

Q: You also have some cameras with you in the room that certainly weren’t there in 2019. How has that changed the work this time around?
HC: Yeah, it’s increased the demand for me as an actor to see the story. It means that I have to be hyper-specific with what I see, because the cameras are going to illuminate whatever I show. Even if it’s just a small moment of a nonspecific image, the audience will see that, right? So I have to be hyper-focused the whole time on not only how I’m sharing the story, but also to what: Sometimes it’s to the live audience. Sometimes it’s to the camera. Sometimes it’s both. And then, yeah, it’s just… it’s such a workout. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Q: What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to share the story outside of the physical room of the theatre with the streamed version?
HC: This is such a wonderful opportunity to share the story. I just want it to go to the folks that need to hear it. It would be amazing if we could share it with my grandparents in New York, and I’m looking forward to that. But honestly, I’m just excited because that accessibility is something that I really think is needed for storytelling right now. And, you know, particularly with the message and the things that we’re trying to get across, I really do feel like it would be important to have folks gathering around this question and the story that we’re trying to tell.

Q: So you’re experimenting not only with the story itself, but how it’s told – what do you want audiences to walk away with on Saturday, both from the story and from how you’re telling it?
HC: I want people to walk away with the feeling like they were there. And the feeling like they have family. And I don’t want anyone to walk away thinking about, necessarily, one part of the production. I want them to just have been transported, and gently placed back where they are. But different, in a good way.

Lake of the Strangers is available for in-person viewing or streaming on FringeTV. Click here to book your tickets for either way to view the show!

We gratefully acknowledge the EPCOR Heart + Soul Fund for supporting the creation of Lakes and Streams and BioWare for their generous support of Fringe’s Indigenous Innovation Program.

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