A new Indigenous-led podcast is aiming at having conversations on racial representation in the musical theatre industry.
Dillan Meighan Chiblow is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., but currently lives in Toronto. He is the creator and host of the new podcast, Voicing the Circle.
Through the podcast, Chiblow said he is hoping to spark conversations on issues like colonization, Indigenous identity and the under-representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour in the performing arts community.
“I’ve always wanted to talk about stuff in the arts, especially in musical theatre,” said Chiblow.
“With all the racial awakening that’s going on now, I know people are finally listening.”
He said he grew up playing hockey and baseball but met a drama teacher in high school who encouraged him to audition for the school musical, which gave him the “theatre bug.”
Chiblow took singing lessons and joined community theatre groups and choirs through high school then took a year off to “double down” on music theory and dance lessons.
He attended Toronto-area Sheridan College’s musical theatre program and spent time abroad obtaining a master’s degree in musical theatre from the Royal Conservatory of Scotland.
Chiblow said there were times during his training that he felt out of place and wasn’t sure why, and his teachers were also unsure how to help.
After moving back to Toronto, Chiblow got a role in Children of God, a musical by Corey Payette about an Oji-Cree family whose children were taken away to residential school in Northern Ontario.
“Doing an Indigenous musical about residential schools to mostly non-Indigenous audiences has been really educational, really life changing,” he said.
Awareness and understanding
Encouraging people to understand Indigenous issues through their own lived experiences is a goal for the podcast, said Chiblow.
“I feel like people in Canada are very afraid to say the word colonization or to even throw in the word Indigenous,” said Chiblow.
He said he hopes having people listen to him and his guests speak about their Indigeneity and how that relates to their experiences within the musical theatre world, will help raise awareness of the issues they face.
He’s been recording interviews with friends and colleagues over Zoom and editing the episodes on his own while his performance contracts continue to be pushed back due to the pandemic.
While at least half of the guests are Indigenous, actors from other backgrounds are included as well. He said the podcast is also themed around teachings of the medicine wheel.
“As humans are needed to complete the circle, we’re all equal in the circle and we’ll have a place in the circle,” said Chiblow.
“And unfortunately with colonization, obviously the circle is really unbalanced.”
By bringing in other guests to share their perspectives and experiences, he aims to bring balance to the circle while elevating Indigenous voices.
The podcast is available on Soundcloud and there will be episodes released weekly until Aug. 15.