Two Prince Albert student playwrights had an experience to remember

Submitted photo. Shannon Montgrand (top, forth from left) and Daniela Linklater (bottom, third from left) with members from the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Circle at the Stratford Festival.

NC Raine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Eagle Feather News

New York and London may, historically speaking, be the hotbeds of theatre and playwriting, where opportunity runs aplenty, but soon those in the North may have the same opportunities.

“Previously, I think it’s been really hard to develop a love for theatre and fine arts here in Prince Albert,” said Timothy Drake an English professor at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) Prince Albert campus.

This spring, FNUniv partnered with the Stratford Festival – one of the most historic and distinguished theatre companies in Canada. Together, they provided an immersive week-long ‘Stratford Experience’ for two young playwrights from the northern campus. 

“In my [scriptwriting] class, I try to cover everything but I mostly focus on scripts. But there’s so much more to a theatrical production,” said Drake. “So that was my main goal, to give students the full experience of theatre.”

FNUniv students Daniela Linklater and Shannon Montgrand were chosen to receive the Stratford Experience.

From May 12 to 19, they learned every facet involved in theatrical productions. 

Linklater and Montgrand’s itinerary included sitting in on dress rehearsals and performances of several plays; tours of each of Stratford’s three unique theatres; brunch with Stratford’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Circle; and discussions with actors and directors from the theatre company.

“I so thoroughly enjoyed every part of my trip to the Stratford Festival,” said Linklater. “I learned so much more about the art of theatre and now have a significant amount of appreciation for the work that goes into a production.” 

Although she’s thankful for the opportunity, she would like others to also have the same experience. 

“I hope that future selected students get as much as I did out of it,” said Linklater.

Daviorr Snipes, director of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Stratford Festival, said he couldn’t be more pleased with the enthusiasm of the FNUniv students.

“It’s about cultivating the next generation of Indigenous artists, who can collaborate and work with the Stratford Festival,” said Snipes. “We want to expand what your opportunities are, as an Indigenous artist. And we want these artists to consider this a home for them.”

The partnership between FNUniv and the Stratford Festival was launched, in part, due to the strength and popularity of Drake’s classes at FNUniv, where he has students rewrite Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 

“So many students have discovered creativity in themselves that they didn’t know they had,” said Drake. “In many instances, the plays [the students write] put an Indigenous twist on a Shakespeare classic.”

After hearing about Drake’s class, the Stratford Festival’s FiNMI circle connected with FNUniv.

“With an organization like the Stratford Festival, which is a very influential theatre in Canada, we see it as part of the mission to expand who is represented at this theatre, not only one stage but in the audience and backstage,” said Snipes. 

“It’s our duty to ensure that the stories and people Stratford showcases are as diverse as the people it is trying to represent.”

Going forward, FNUniv and Stratford plan to continue the partnership, with a reciprocal arrangement designed for part two, where a Stratford artist visits FNUniv and works with the students. 

Details of how the partnership will look and evolve are still developing, but both organizations are committed to finding unique ways of growing and nurturing theatrical talent in northern Saskatchewan. 

“I want to give more students the opportunity to go down there,” said Drake. “Both students said they were able to expand their knowledge of all the facets of theatrical production. So I know this was a big success.”