REVIEW: Prophecy Fog
Robyn Grant-Moran reviews Prophecy Fog, a Theatre Centre and Paper Canoe Projects co-production in association with Nightswimming Theatre. Prophecy Fog is directed by The Theatre Centre outgoing artistic director Franco Boni, and written and performed by Jani Lauzon:
In 2013, Jani Lauzon travelled to Giant Rock in the Mojave Desert with a question in mind: if a site has been desecrated, can it still be sacred? It’s through this journey, that Lauzon created Prophecy Fog, her latest solo offering.
The physical space carved out for this meditation is an intimate circle, with a large overhead screen projecting sky-scapes that manage to simultaneously confine and liberate. Against this, Lauzon builds and rebuilds Giant Rock and the Mojave Desert. It feels like an invitation directly into her imagination, where rocks share the fragments of memories they carry; traditional beliefs not entirely at odds with modern day archeology.
As the story unfurls, it doesn’t follow any overt linear path; childhood memories and experiences instead intertwine with myth, as we travel from outer space to Giant Rock with Lauzon. At one point, Lauzon almost flippantly mentions not being white enough for some, and not brown enough for others – Métis life in a nutshell. Are our mixed bodies still sacred when the implication of being desecrated often hangs in the air? But Lauzon reminds us of the Hopi myth of the rainbow warriors, and that we have a place creating unity in this world. Or is that actually a Cree myth? (Spoiler: according to Lauzon, it’s Cree.)
Important to many Indigenous peoples, UFO enthusiasts, and unskilled white supremacist graffiti artists alike, Giant Rock is the perfect setting to explore the nature of what we consider sacred. It’s seven stories high and used to be the largest freestanding boulder in the world. It’s where Native Americans gathered for ceremony, until settlers moved into the area, and it was eventually purchased by Frank Critzer in 1930. According to Wikipedia (put a pin in that), Critzer and some self-detonated dynamite ended his tenure at Giant Rock in 1942, but not before he built a home and an airplane runway, and was investigated by police. Later his friend George Van Tassel leased the land and it became a hotspot for UFO conventions. In its complex and, at times, laughable history, this important rock was further desecrated by Neo Nazi graffiti, and in 2000 a large piece broke off the rock, diminishing its status on record.
But what of the petroglyphs and the people who painted them? Can they matter anymore when covered by “white power” slogans? And how does this fit into our cut and paste worldview, where information can be posted to Wikipedia, often misattributed, obscuring the myth like graffiti, creating new mythological bastards that can spread in a wildfire of memes? Is that myth still sacred or valuable even if Wikipedia leads us down the garden path, interchanging Hopi and Cree, distorting Indigenous ontologies? Never fully answering these questions, Lauzon uses her skills as a storyteller, researcher/historian, and musician to invite us into her dreamy imagination where she challenges us to consider them for ourselves.
As someone whose existence leaves me perpetually contemplating these ideas, Prophecy Fog is a joy to watch. It feels warm and reassuring to see a skilled artist tell stories that resonate so deeply with what it is to be a human byproduct of vastly different cultures and beliefs coming together. But more importantly, a visit to Giant Rock becomes a springboard to share and question culture, a way to understand differences and celebrate shared humanity. I leave reminded that sacred spaces—be they physical geographies, or our bodies—can be reclaimed, can evolve and still remain as sacred as we believe them to be.
Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis Nation of Ontario) is a classical singer, writer, and a jack of many trades who has recently met the requirements to call herself a Bachelor of the Fine Arts (thank you, York University and Indspire!). Along with her BFA, she has also completed the Performance Criticism Training Program with Generator, has studied with some beloved Canadian classical singers, and been in a opera or two. Robyn currently resides in Toronto with her tiny adorable rat dog.