After nine years of unfathomably artistic arts administration with Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA) Donna-Michelle St. Bernard is stepping away from her role as General Manager. Her time with NEPA comes to a close in December of 2012. As Artistic Director of New Harlem Productions, DM will not go far – New Harlem will inhabit a desk in NEPA's new Regent Park home.
During her years at Native Earth, DM has proven herself a force of nature that can wrangle itself to become an award-winning theatre artist, a shaper of training initiatives, a grower of company capital, and above all, a collaborator of remarkable dexterity. Hers is a fabric woven so intricately, and with such unlikely diversity, that she can only be beheld and admired, and possibly never truly understood: certainly never duplicated.
DM and Yvette Nolan took an ailing Native Earth and rebuilt it into a formidable artistic hub for all things related to contemporary Indigenous performing arts. These two fierce artists and administrators trained innumerable administrators, producers, stage managers, actors, playwrights, choreographers, designers and more, by investing faith and resources in them.
"The Native Earth that exists today is in large part due to DM's fearlessness; her bravery made me brave. If we could dream it, DM could make it happen. In fact, the secret to her success, to the success of anyone who is lucky enough to work with her, may be her ability to disregard the notion that there is any difference between a dream and reality." - Yvette Nolan
As our community grew, so did DM. Like Nolan before her, DM is not replaceable. Still, she must move on in order to heed the evolution of her artistry.
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard's is an artistic practice that spans playwriting, acting, directing, spoken word, living installation work, collective creation, community engagement, and youth mentorship. After committing so much of her time and energy to NEPA, DM sets off, on a journey with New Harlem Productions (NHP) and beyond. A Metcalf renewal grant will help DM make her transition, yet keep her in the field where she shines, ever contributing to our nourishment, even while in "renewal."
DM's concerted efforts to get NEPA moved into a homebase with the Aki Studio Theatre were beautifully realized with our space's inaugural production. This October, the Aki Studio Theatre was launched with the NHP premiere of Métis playwright Keith Barker's The Hours That Remain. As playwright-in-residence of NEPA, Barker's debut through NHP, and in Aki were ideal. DM fostered Barker through to this play's fruition – a bright demonstration of DM's outstanding ability to see a thing through to its best incarnation.
"We wish DM every adventure she craves, and every joy she has coming to her," writes Artistic Director Tara Beagan. "We thank her for her years with us, so full of courage and beauty. We encourage you to keep an eye on her creations, as we will, because they come at a rate and with such might that they will shake the ground beneath your feet. Best to know why you feel like dancing."