Next Stage Theatre Festival: Salt Baby

Falen Johnson navigates complex identity issues in this engaging cultural comedy

By Falen Johnson
Directed by Yvette Nolan

Paula-Jean Prudat in Salt Baby. Photo Credit: Jacklyn Atlas.

As human beings, it is natural to be curious about our genetic makeup, and who our ancestors were. After all, our background is what has shaped us into the person we are today, or so one young woman believes—the young protagonist of Salt Baby, now playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Although self-described as “three-quarters Indian," she looks white, and as such has been referred to as “Salt Baby” since the moment of her birth. The production opens with this young woman (Paula-Jean Prudat) having a passionate conversation with her love interest (James Cade) about where she comes from. He asks her many of the same questions any Caucasian would ask someone with an aboriginal background: “Do you live on a reservation?” and “Do you have a status card? Can I see it?." Prudat explains that she has an Indian background (and also explains that the term “Indian” is only used amongst her family, and cannot be used by anyone else until she trusts them), and laments that she does not know her exact genetic makeup, which is clearly something she longs to learn more about.

The next few scenes allow the audience a glimpse into Prudat's home life, as she returns home to visit her father (Mike Bernier) who lives on Six Nations and longs for his daughter to move back from her life in the city. She mentions to him that she would like to take an online genetic test, which requires a cheek swab from her father, which he declines, telling her that he would rather not know. Meanwhile, her relationship with her boyfriend is becoming more serious, and they decide to move in together. When she tells her mother (Derek Garza) the news, she is less than thrilled, and tells her daughter that she is simply a form of rebellion for this white young man. This, clearly, does not help Prudat in her quest to find out who she truly is.

Salt Baby is an educational experience for an audience who may not know a great deal about aboriginal culture, specifically one scene where Mike Bernier burns sweetgrass and explains its use to his daughter, who is frightened by aboriginal traditions. The production also offers comedic relief through Garza, who plays all of the women's roles other than Salt Baby, as well as several other characters. Overall, Salt Baby is carried by Prudat, and the audience shares her frustrations throughout the production, as well as her joy towards the end when she comes to a surprising revelation.

Salt Baby runs until January 13 at the Factory Studio Theatre. Visit for showtimes and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2013-01-02 - Sun, 2013-01-13
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