Darkly Comical.

Unapologetically Political.

A Play About Pipelines.



by Matthew MacKenzie


January 29—February 24, 2019 at the belfry theatre IN VICTORIA, BC


BEARS by Matthew MacKenzie. Pictured_ Sheldon Elter. Chorus_ Lara Ebata, Gianna Vacirca, Skye Demas, Alida Kendell, Zoe Glassman, Kendra Shorter, Rebecca Sadowski - 09. Photo by Alexis McKeown_.jpg
I’d never seen a play that speaks to issues facing Canada’s Indigenous peoples as effectively and beautifully as Bears does.
— Jerry Saddleback, Cree Elder and Dean of Cultural Studies at Maskwacîs College

Low Res - Bears Artwork - by Jonathon Bartlett.jpg


by Matthew MacKenzie

A multi-disciplinary dark comedy about the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, Bears asks what the hell it is we think we're doing here in Wild Rose Country.

The prime suspect in a workplace accident, Floyd has to get out of town fast. Pursued  by the RCMP, he heads through the Rockies for Burnaby, B.C, along the route of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. By the time he reaches the Pacific, Floyd has experienced changes - his gait widening, his muscles bulging, his sense of smell heightening.... 

Bears by Matthew MacKenzie (SIA, The Particulars, The Other) is an ambitious, theatrically innovative, Indigenous-led new Canadian play. Told through dramatic storytelling, an integrated 8-person chorus, an enchanting projection design and an evocative electronic soundscape, Bears is not just a play: it is emotional, empathetic performance experience.



Few environmental issues facing Canadians are attracting as much attention as pipelines and their proposed expansions.

Performed first in Edmonton in February 2015, Bears was a sell-out success, garnering considerable Arts and non-Arts media attention. The official premiere was in January 2018 at the Theatre Centre in Toronto, the production receiving numerous awards including the Dora awards for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production in the independent theatre division, co-winning the Toronto Theatre Critics Outstanding New Canadian Play Award and the Playwright Guild of Canada’s Carol Bolt National Playwriting Award. The production has since toured to Calgary, Canmore, Maskwacis, Saddle Lake, Vancouver, and Victoria.

Bears gives a voice to the voiceless, vulnerable animals and landscapes desecrated by the insatiable human desire for industrial expansion. On his journey fleeing the RCMP, Floyd encounters: a golden eagle drowned in oil; the melting “tears” of Mount Edith Cavell’s Angel Glacier; a mother wolf bleeding “Canadian red” on a blanket of snow; and much more. With Bears, our companies strive to increase dialogue about the devastating effects economic greed is taking on the lands of our country’s First Nations peoples.

Unapologetically political, Bears is a welcome new Canadian play, led by a cast and creative team of primarily Indigenous artists. 

BEARS by Matthew MacKenzie. Pictured_ Sheldon Elter. Chorus_ Lara Ebata, Gianna Vacirca, Skye Demas, Alida Kendell, Zoe Glassman, Kendra Shorter, Rebecca Sadowski - 10. Photo by Alexis McKeown.jpg
It’s rare enough to find original theatre that is so definably of this place. Theatre that harnesses the divergent resources of multi-disciplinary artists so creatively to mount an argument is rarer still.

You can’t really afford to miss Bears.
— Liz Nicholls, Edmonton Journal

Meet the Team

Playwright Matthew MacKenzie

Matthew BW.jpg

In 1841, MacKenzie's great, great, great kokom Kisiskaciwan passed through Alberta. For three days, as her party stocked up on supplies, she sat by the North Saskatchewan River—her namesake, and cried. An Englishman recorded in his account of the journey that Kisiskaciwan had the same veneration for the North Saskatchewan as those of the Hindu faith do for the Ganges. This historical account led MacKenzie to write Bears .

Matthew Mackenzie is a multi-award winning and Sterling nominated playwright.  Among his awards and recognition are the National Theatre School's Lieutenant Governor’s award for excellence and community involvement, Tarragon Theatre's Top Emerging Playwright Award (2012), and he was the 2010 Grand Prize recipient of the 44th Alberta Playwriting Competition. Matthew has had nearly a dozen of his works produced in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and New York. Since the 2014 theatre season, Matthew has had 8 professional premieres of his work across Canada.

Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts has been an active partner in the development of Bears.

Supporting Matt as he engages with and explores his Cree heritage in a meaningful, respectful way, has been a journey I have been thrilled to accompany this Alberta playwright on.
— Christine Sokaymoh Frederick, Artistic Director of Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts

Creative Team


Bears features award-winning actor and former tar-sands worker Sheldon Elter (Métis) (creator and performer of Dora nominated Métis Mutt) as Floyd. 

Supporting Floyd is a chorus of eight dancers choreographed by 7-time Dora Award nominee Monica Dottor (co-Artistic Director Company  Blonde ).

Underscoring Floyd’s journey is an  original soundscape by Sterling award winning electronic composer Noor Dean Musani, while multiple Sterling Award winning designer Erin Gruber’s environmental design transports winter-weary audiences into a  mountainous summerscape.

Chorus and Production Team 

Featuring: Skye Demas, Lara Ebata, Tracey Nepinak, Zoe Glassman, Shammy Belmore, Karina Cox, Rebecca Sadowski, Kendra Shorter, and Gianna Vacirca.


Associate Director Patrick Lundeen

Stage Manager Erin Voaklander

Costume Designers Brianna Kolybaba and Monica Dottor

Production Manager and Technical Director Trent Crosby

Artistic Producer Christine Sokaymoh Frederick

Associate Producer Sheiny Satanove

Punctuate General Manager Krista Lin

Who we are & Why we are

Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts (AAPA) is an Aboriginal Theatre and Performing Arts organization based in Edmonton, Alberta. Our mandate is to nurture and cultivate an Aboriginal arts scene in Edmonton by creating opportunities for Aboriginal Artists, Writers and Performers to present their work to the public. We produce events that bring artists of multiple disciplines and Aboriginal traditions together. Our goal is to encourage and inspire collaborations in art and performance in both contemporary and traditional styles and to bring these creations to audiences across Alberta. AAPA provides audiences of all backgrounds a chance to experience challenging artistic works that speak from a unique Aboriginal perspective. 

Punctuate! Theatre is an award-winning professional theatre company based in Edmonton Alberta. We are dedicated to creating diverse, multidisciplinary dance and theatre productions. We engage both professional and emerging artists, providing mentorship opportunities within the artistic and production team. We think Albertans deserve to have cultural and artistic events brought to their communities. 

Our Joint Venture - Bears

This project is an exciting collaboration between these two award- winning Alberta theatre companies’ with national scope, Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts (AAPA) and Punctuate! Theatre. Bears will be performed at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre and Toronto’s Factory theatre between February 1-March 16 2019.


BEARS by Matthew MacKenzie. Pictured_ Left, Christine Sokaymoh Frederick. Right, Sheldon Elter. Chorus_ Lara Ebata, Gianna Vacirca, Skye Demas, Alida Kendell, Zoe Glassman, Kendra Shorter, Rebecca Sadowski - 05. Photo by Alexis McKeown_.jpg