Married comedic duo launches workshop for Indigenous youth in the north

Comedian Dakota Ray Hebert and her husband and fellow comedian Dylan Jay Williamson will be running comedy and theatre courses for youth in northern Saskatchewan. (Submitted photo/Dakota Ray Hebert)

Dakota Ray Hebert’s career in comedy and theatre has taken her to many places around the country and globe including Mexico and China, but soon she’ll be taking on a new adventure.

Hebert and her parter, Dylan Jay Williamson, will be coaching Indigenous youth the basics of comedy and theatre virtually over the next couple of months.

“I’ve been doing lots of theatre workshops over the past few years and comedy’s something, teaching comedy is something that I’ve just kind of started doing.

Hebert is Dene and originally from Meadow Lake and English River First Nation. She’s been working with Indigenous theatre company Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre. The theatre had been running Circle of Voices for over two decades, teaching youth the foundations of theatre, performing, and writing.

Last year the theatre reached out to Hebert and asked if she would be interested in spearheading the first Circle Voices Northprogram.

Herbert was immediately on board with the idea because she says her and Williamson are both interested in developing theatre and comedy programming for young people. She said their both passionate about teaching youth.

“It was really exciting to see the kids step into themselves – out of their shells and into themselves. It was really exciting and they did so good and it’s really rewarding work,” Hebert said about past experiences.

Circle of the Voices North is now open for registration for Indigenous youth aged 13 to 18 living in northern communities. Hebert says they’re ideally looking for 10-15 youth to join. Classes will be held over Zoom from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday to Wednesday during the week.

The class will teach students the basic of improv, sketch and stand up comedy. In other comedy workshops, Hebert has found a balance between showing students other comedian’s work, brainstorming their own ideas and giving them time to work on their own pieces.

“It’s about discovering your voice too, your writing style, your performance style,” Hebert explained.

She added it can be difficult do to do this virtually but the group is making do.

One activity Hebert had her students do was experiment with Snapchat photo and voice filters to create a sketch. One of her students acted as both a Kohkom and grandson making bannock together. The student used a filter that created a big mouth and low voice for the kohkum, and then a tiny mouth, big glasses, and high pitched voice for the grandson.

“It was really well done, I was really proud of her. She used to be one of the shy students so it seemed like it was really pushing to her – to do something she was a little scared of and she did really well.”

Hebert said it’s been exciting to put on the workshops, and with Circle Voices Northshe believes it will give youth knowledge and experience so they won’t be as intimidated in other settings such as at university or in a big city.

“They know the vocabulary, they know the language, they know the feeling and what’s going on with it,” Hebert explained.

She added it’s nice see youths confidence levels and self-assuredness boost.

Hebert explained if students are scared or shy to sign up, they can turn their cameras and microphones off and just sit and listen.

Hebert is hoping the class can get up and running this Wednesday with meet and greets, or next Monday. For registration details visit