Ryan Willert, wearing mask, will perform along with Emily Thomson in Tale of a Wild Coyote.

RDC hosts Ryan Willert’s Wild Coyote tale to promote good mental health

Students at risk of “virtually living” need to learn to make connections, says psych instructor

Young people struggling to make real-life connections could learn something from the tale of a coyote that’s caught between two worlds.

Indigenous artist and storyteller Ryan Jason Allen Willert will be staging his original performance art piece, A Tale of A Wild Coyote, at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Margaret Parsons Theatre at Red Deer College, to boost general awareness about mental health issues.

The performance by Willert and fellow Red Deer artist Emily Thomson is open to the general public.

Told through shadow puppetry and native drumming, the story is based on Willert’s own life as a Métis person of Blackfoot and European ancestry. But he turned his personal experiences into a fable about a “half-breed” coyote-Blackfoot creature so audience members can better project their own circumstances onto it.

“The story is about growing up as a native/non-native person in society, but I made it very abstract to make it more interesting,” said Willert, who grew up in Olds, Innisfail, Red Deer and the Siksika Nation.

He hopes his tale “about someone who’s caught between two worlds” will help heal people who are going through their own struggles with fitting in.

RDC psychology instructor Elena Antoniadis invited Willert to perform A Tale Of A Wild Coyote in the hope of launching regular arts-related events at RDC on the themes of self-acceptance and making community connections. She believes it comes down to promoting good mental health for the student population.

Many “21st-Century learners” are spending so much time in the virtual world of electronics, she said “they are at risk of virtually living.” Getting in touch with the self is a vital first step before learning to connect with others, added Antoniadis. “I believe (Willert’s) story beautifully illustrates this universal need.”

He will perform in a coyote mask he created, as storyteller, singer and drummer. Thomson will be the shadow puppeteer.

Both artists have painted public murals in Red Deer and Calgary. Willert also contributed line drawings of his native-themed art to the Colouring It Forward adult colouring book series. He’s been commissioned to create art for various causes in Red Deer and Calgary, including polar bear preservation, sexuality and health, and literacy.

Admission to Thursday’s performance is by donation to RDC’s student food bank.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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