Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Charlie Peters
Charlie Peters pours his whole heart into whatever he is working on whether it is on stage exploring fragile masculinity, or analyzing a new text, or perfecting his lotus pose. Charlie possesses a vision of a more loving world that informs everything that he does. His warmth fills the rehearsal hall with his deep belly laugh, or patient thoughtful nodding. I have seen this warmth attract people of all walks of life to him as is evident if you've ever tried to walk a city block with him - he seems to know the whole city. He has a deep sense of the interdependence of community. Creating a space for people to share and connect is undoubtedly what makes him a great theatre artist, as well as a great friend. I appreciate Charlie's optimism and verve for life because it is far to easy to be a cynical artist, and what the weary world really needs most in her time of struggle is someone who can make her laugh, and hold space for her to cry, and reintroduce her to that childlike wonder that is possible in the theatre.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
I just finished producing and performing in Elemental, which was a double-bill of one-person
shows created by myself and my dear friend Danielle Altrogge. We’ve been collaborating in
different ways for over 10 years and that’s an exciting thing to realize and reflect on. We’re still
wrapping up the business/production side of things, so that’s fresh on my mind. That was a
dream project: collaborating with a truly incredible team of artists and tackling subject matter
that I think is really important.
As I write this, we’re in the final stages of tech for the Gordon Tootoosis Nikawniwin Theatre’s
Circle of Voices production. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with the COV for several years
now and each year I get to see a new group of young people create their first theatre production.
Each year it is a treat and an honour to watch and to support these young artists.
I’m also in the early stages of devising a performance piece with Megan Zong and
respectfulchild, two Saskatoon artists for whom I have such deep respect. We’re creating about
heavy material, but we’re have such fun in the room as we create. I’m really excited by this
project and how it’s pushing each of us to grow as artists.
Wow. As I write that it occurs to me just how fortunate I am to get to work with so many friends!
I also run Sum Theatre’s Youth on the Rise drama program for youth and The Last Sunday, a
free monthly event that brings together music, drama, interviews, and rants by local
personalities. Curating that event has been a wonderful learning experience about seeking out a
wide variety of voices and offering them a stage. Working with young people and sharing the
dramatic arts with them, creating with them, and watching them grow inspires me and reminds
me to be grateful for the many gifts theatre has given me and can give the world.
KC: What is your day job? What do you like about it? What is challenging?
At the moment I work only in theatre, wearing a huge variety of hats. I do a lot of admin work,
which feels much more like a day job than an arts job some days.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on being a full-time artist and what that means. It’s a
conversation that’s coming up for more of my peers these days. A big challenge is that suddenly
you aren’t only creating the art you are most compelled to create, but also the art that will sustain
you financially. There’s a whole other art to searching for and finding the value in a project you
did not initiate and might not be your first choice were it not for the paycheque. I am privileged
to have worked on so many projects about which I’ve been passionate, but that is not and cannot
always be the case. Determining and standing by your principles and assessing which projects
you chose to work on and why is an ongoing challenge.
It means saying no to a paycheque sometimes. It means saying yes to things that don’t inspire
you or with which you have some qualms. It means having no weekends, predictable hours, or
limits on how much you work in a week. It also means making significantly less than I ever did
when I had a day job. And I’m also thrilled and humbled to get to do what I do day in and day
KC: What is important to you?
People. People are important to me. Connection. Community.
KC: What do you like the most, and least, about Saskatoon?
Saskatoon is a complicated city. I was born and raised here. So many of my favourite people live
here. The beauty of the river, the vibrancy of Broadway and Riversdale, and the fact that every
yard has a tree inspires me.
Saskatoon is also super racist. It votes conservative a disappointing amount of the time. It’s a city
that wants to hide its poverty and ignore its social issues. We like to sweep our shit under the rug
and call it a small-town feel.
At its best, Saskatoon is a beautiful, inter-connected community that’s willing to help you out
when you need it. It’s a place of smiles and hugs and hands willing to help you do the lifting. At
its worst, it’s a deeply segregated community where we hide among our own and ignore the
other side of the river or the other groups that call Saskatoon home.
Saskatoon has lots to be proud of and lots to work on. Saskatoon could afford to build more
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
I’ve got cousins in Regina so I’ve been going there since I was a kid but almost always in the
context of specific family events. I haven’t got to engage with the city beyond that very much -
except for Saskatchewan Youth Parliament where we got to hang out in the legislature all day.
That was great, but, again, hardly a broad introduction to the city.
I wish I knew their theatre scene better. I’ve always got the impression that their artists work in
interdisciplinary ways more frequently and dynamically than we do in Saskatoon. I admire that. I
think artistic silos can work against innovation. That said, I fall into my little silo as much (or
more) than anyone!
It seems we’re getting more inter-play between the cities (at least in theatre) and I think that’s
great. It’s a small province and, relatively speaking, we’re not that far from one another. Can we
find ways to collaborate and share work between the cities more? I hope so!
KC: Finish this sentence: If the best of all possible worlds
Suffering would be occasional, temporary, and resisted. Everyone would work hard to keep others
(and themselves) from suffering needlessly. Since we cannot avoid all suffering, we would also
support each other in our various sufferings and cultivate our own abilities to sit with our
suffering without lashing out or crumpling in.
KC: How has your identity helped you / hindered you?
I have only recently come out as bi, so that is a major new identity that I am working to own
more publicly. It’s been a long journey getting here, and I have still not found anything
resembling a stable sense of myself.
That said, I’ve tried to reflect on my place as a white, cis-man. I have tried to understand how
my identifiers influence my experience in the world. The truth is, as a white cis dude, I get away
with shit that others don’t, I’m given the benefit of the doubt when other’s aren’t, and I have
access to opportunities others don’t. I’ve tried to use this as a call to action in both how I create
and curate work and what work I create. Most recently this has manifested in Many Fires, which
was my contribution to Elemental. Many Fires was an exploration of contemporary
masculinities, envisioning alternatives to the current models and critiquing my own experiences
KC: From the Proust Questionnaire: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I care about what other people think of me way more than I am comfortable admitting. More and
more I have been noticing (and trying to change) my habit of avoiding conflict because I
don’t want people to dislike me. I’m also working to keep my perceptions of what others
think affecting my sense of self-worth. It’s an ongoing process.