Hamlet, the Maliseet



To be or not to be Amerindian?

This play is closely connected to the encounters that took place over the years between Ondinnok and young Aboriginal aspiring actors. Maliseet, Innu, Huron-Wendat or Atikamekw, these individuals had in common that, against all odds, they took the decision to become full-fledged artists.

In November 2002 in collaboration with The National Theatre School of Canada, Ondinnok held a pilot theatre-training workshop for Aboriginals. One of the participants was Dave Jenniss, a young Maliseet. The intensity of his desire to be an actor and the identity questions that tore at him prompted Ondinnok to propose that he embody this contemporary, Aboriginal Hamlet. A question haunts him: to be or not to be Amerindian?


Ondinnok appropriated the argument of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and diverted it into ones own Aboriginal identity and spiritual codes. Dave, a young urban Amerindian is searching for himself. He is also hunting for who his father is. The young actor wants to show a Hamlet from his Maliseet reserve of Kinogamish. Little by little he discovers that he is Hamlet! Just like Hamlet’s father, his father, in the past a hostile Amerindian, had been gotten rid of by his mother’s new lover – the chief of the reserve. This is a story of impossible love in which Dave, to his horror,  discovers he loves his own sister who, pregnant with his child, commits suicide as does Ophelia. While Dave is indignant about the corruption and the cultural decay that surrounds him and, like Hamlet, wants justice, he above all wants to act in order to survive – for himself to survive.

Performance Dates

2004    June 1 to 19 – Montreal, American Can

The Team

Playwrights: Jean-Frédéric Messier & Yves Sioui Durand

Director: Jean-Frédéric Messier

Actors: Karine Awashish, Charles Bender, Yvon Dubé, Dave Jenniss, Marjolaine McKenzie, Jacques Newashish & Kathia Rock

Set Designers: Frédéric Lessard, Marie-Claude Pelletier & Sharon Scott

Musicians: Jacques Awashish & Kathia Rock

Costume Designer: Ginette Grenier

Lighting Designer: Geoffrey Levine

Video Designer: François Péloquin

Illustration: Raymond Dupuis

Makeup Designer: Suzanne Trépanier

Fight Director: Huy Phong Doan

Assistant Director: Annie Beaudouin

Technical Director: Patrice Moïse

Photographer: Benoit Aquin

Graphic Art: Corbeau blanc Design

Communications Director: Lucienne Losier

Media Contact: Karine Cousineau


Producers: Ondinnok