Eight of the artists involved in Frozen River
Screen shot of virtual workshop for Frozen River

FROZEN RIVER ROUNDS BEND TO WORLD PREMIERE

For four days this October, the playwrights, co-directors, actors, and MTYP artistic staff involved in creating Frozen River, worked together virtually, to fine tune the script before the show moved into its design phase.

Frozen River will make its world premiere in February 2021, and is one of the plays MTYP is currently supporting through the work we do in new play development.

It is a huge undertaking to create a collective vision with three playwrights working in different parts of the globe, with additional challenges arising during a pandemic. The three artists penning Frozen River include Michaela Washburn, a Métis artist hailing from the prairies and now based in Toronto; Joelle Peters, an Anishinaabe/Miami artist from Walpole Island First Nation; and Carrie Costello, a Winnipeg-based artist and the founder of Castlemoon Theatre.

New plays are often years in the making with the playwrights first doing research, and then moving on to writing and rewriting. By the time it premieres, the play has often gone through more than ten drafts. As part of the development process, there are usually several workshops, when the play is read aloud and actively deconstructed, which give the playwrights a clearer picture of where the script is headed. And can also frequently lead to more rewrites.

During the October 12-15 working sessions held virtually, the playwrights, alongside Co-Directors Ann Hodges and Tracey Nepinak, got to imagine the play on a stage and listen to actors Julie Lumsden, Krystle Pederson, Mallory James and Gwendolyn Collins bring the roles to life. On the final day of workshops, MTYP staff and invited guests were able to watch readings of a portion of the play and witness this process in action.

Next in the process will be the work of the formidable team of artists that include Set designer Andy Moro, Costume Designer Jay Havens, Sound Designer and Composer Marie-Josée Dandeneau and Lighting Designer Dean Cowieson who will contribute to the creation of the visual and aural world of the play for it to go to production.

In the play, Grandmother Moon tells the story of two eleven year olds, born under the same blood moon, but in different parts of the world. The play follows the stories of a Scottish girl named Eilidh and a young Cree person, whose name Okânawâpacikêw, means “one who sees”, as they meet and their lives intersect. The meeting of these two identities anchors Frozen River, and the writing process has been about incorporating the multiple voices in which it is written.

The development of new plays is a key part of MTYP’s mission. MTYP aims to present plays to young audiences that reflect their lives and speak to this moment. This means hearing from and empowering as many voices and communities as possible, and in particular voices who have been previously silenced.

Frozen River will premiere on MTYP’s Mainstage starting February 5.