A chance to watch a play at an outdoor rink is coming to Prince Albert next week.
SUM Theatre and La Troup du Jour are teaming up to bring a show on ice to the East Hill Community Club Rink.
The Theatre on the Rink: Elder Brother and The Bison is at the Rink on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The 15-minute musical play can be seen at rinks in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina and North Battleford between Jan. 15 and Feb. 4.
Mackenzie Dawson, who is the director of the show and the artistic Director of SUM theatre, said they are trying to make theatre more accessible. The show also fills a gap for artistic programming that exists in the wintertime, and helps people become more aware of public spaces they might not be using.
“For SUM Theatre, we typically do this in the summertime, and we find that people also are really needing something encouraging, something fun in their community that is outdoors in the wintertime,” Dawson explained.
“We think that’s a really kind of a gap that Theatre on the Rink is trying to help fill…. It gets people to a spot that maybe they don’t always interact with … and puts it on their on their radar for the future.”
The show focuses on Elder Brother (Weesageechak), who wants to live the carefree life of a Bison. He does not realize that Bison have their own struggles. The play is based on a Cree story about empathy and learning to walk a mile in another’s shoes.
The co-production features dialogue in Cree, English and French.
Dawson said that the two groups were thinking about language diversity and cultural diversity, as one is prominently English and one is prominently French.
“We thought, ‘what if we had an Indigenous story with Cree language elements,’” he said. “That way it’s bridging a third type of gap between community groups so in that way we’re able to have a trilingual production that feels representative of local storytelling tradition.”
Dawson said the work was a collaboration with Elder Joseph Naytowhow who already had the story to adapt into a play,
They have done two performances at a couple of local school rinks in Saskatoon, and Dawson said the show was well-received.
“The kids, they line up on the ice, they sit on the ice in the middle of the rink, along the boards, (and) we play in with them and around them…. They’re so responsive and they interact with the show and they laugh,” Dawson said.
The show is 15 minutes and he described it as a very full time.
“At the same time, they feel a little bit more uplifted,” he explained. “They’ve just maybe learned something or enjoyed the story, they have had some laughs. The reception has been really positive, so I’m grateful for that because it’s a new play. You never know how a new play is going to go.”
Dawson said they decided to include Prince Albert again because they have done summer shows and developed relationships.
“With our Theatre in the Park show, we’ve been trying to build more relationships with Prince Albert communities and say, school groups and other arts organizations,” he explained. “This is part of furthering that relationship building. We have had a strong relationship with King George Elementary School in the East Hill neighbourhood there.”
King George School is right down the street from the rink and they are inviting other schools to the 2 p.m. show, which is open to the public.
“I understand at least one or two schools actually have the day off, so if parents are looking for something to do with their kids, they’re welcome to come to the 2:00 show as well as the 4:00 show,” Dawson said.
He said that the show is for everyone.
“A lot of people say might say ‘I’m not a theatre person but I like this,’(or) ‘I don’t go to the theatre, but my family never misses Theatre in the Park,’ and in this case, we’re hoping Theatre on the Rink is an extension of that, (and) that it gives people who don’t typically interact with the arts or cultural programming an opportunity to enjoy it close to home in a free, no strings attached type of way, that it’s fun,” Dawson said.
He added that it has music and giant puppets and helps people see community-oriented arts in a new way. With the production only taking 20 minutes he said it will not take too much away from people’s lives.
The show is at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the East Hill Community Club Rink.