New GTNT play opens at Shakespeare on Saskatchewan site
- Julia Peterson | September 10, 2021
It has been an opening night nearly a decade in the making - on September 10, Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre's production of Shadows Among The Prairies will take debut in Saskatoon.
The play, staged at the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival site until Sept 18, tells the story of a woman, Elaine, who finds herself in a disturbing limbo full of shadow beings with no memory of who she is or how she came to be there.
“Her only companions are two other souls that she runs into,” said playwright Jennifer Dawn Bishop. “One had passed away in the 1930s, and the other is an old friend from her past. And so, their stories end up being intertwined. And they’re just trying to travel this place together without trying to be alone.”
Jennica Grienke, one of the three actors in the play, says she “fell in love” with Bishop’s story when she first read the script.
“It has drama, suspense and even though it deals with death and tragedy, there’s a lot of humour and heart,” said Grienke.
For Bishop, this journey of “healing, remembrance and legacy” began shortly after the death of her auntie Leah.
“I couldn’t shake it off, and I had this need to just start writing,” said Bishop.
The play is not a biography - rather, it is inspired by parts of Leah’s life and how Bishop’s family reacted to her death.
“My dad had felt something was wrong even before we heard the news,” recalled Bishop. “He looked to my mom and said, ‘You know, I haven’t talked to my sister Leah in a long time.’ And it was shortly after that - a day or two later - that we found out about her passing.
“And even though she was all the way in Toronto and my dad was out here in Saskatchewan there was that strong family connection of knowing something is wrong. And that has impacted me and always stayed with me until I wrote out the first draft.”
That experience of feeling a family connection through time and space inspired Bishop’s setting for Shadows Among The Prairie.
“I always knew it would have to be in the middle, in between - in what we think of as ‘limbo’ or ‘the void’ or any other term that you would have for it,” she said. “From the very beginning, I always knew this is where the story needed to take place.”
And while many years have passed since she began writing, she feels this is the right time to bring the story to the stage.
“It’s something that I knew I couldn’t rush on; not this particular story,” she said.
Bishop also says her family has been supportive throughout the writing and rehearsal process, sharing stories with her and encouraging her to continue with her work.
“I know [my dad] is going to be excited to see this, and I am so grateful for his support,” she said. “I know he’ll be happy with how it was told - and in a good way, even if it’s intertwined with so many other emotions.”