Elinor: And now, Dad, she's not only seeing things, she's hearing voices as well! They talk to her, apparently, and she listens! How can you say everything's fine, and think all we have to do is let her ... We have to get her some help, Dad and fast before we have to lock her up*
in the ...
Ian: * All I'm saying is that for her, these polar bears ...
Ian: If you say so ...
Elinor: She says so!
Ian: It doesn't matter, Elinor, what I'm saying is they're real to Louise. Why is it always the majority *that decides.....
This quirky little play about see-thru polar bears set in Alberta, had my head reeling the first time I read it. Not knowing what to think, I set it aside for a few days. Karin, asked a lot of questions in this short piece, but left a many unanswered, thus the impact was there for me, I just wasn't entirely sure what I was feeling.
A few days later I picked up the pages again and taking a deep breath, I read it again. This time I fell in love with its strangeness, it's clever beauty, charm, childhood vs adolescence, and subtleties in visual themes vs largeness in imagery.
Each time I read it, the play becomes lovelier, quirkier, and more poignant.
As I put together the Global Play Project, I have been privileged and honored to speak with all of the playwrights to receive permission to us excerpts from their pieces.
When I spoke with Karin, she said she woke up in the night and was inspired to write about “bears,” and started writing.
“...From a hidden place inside me I don’t know nothing of, as I
don’t like especially bears, nor have met lots of them for real.
(This is the usual way I like to write : listening to the story
growing inside me, not knowing where it comes from.)”
Then I asked her about the Native American references and she said that came later, after she realized she had placed it in Canada:
“Then I noticed, the story was set in Canada, where I had not
even been. But lucky me, in the middle of the playwriting, I’ve
been invited by the Banff playRite colony for the translation of
another play of mine (Light) and I met for real Louise’s hometown !
There, I read lots of native american folktales, and I chose
Little Mink/Keechee Keechee Manitou from them. But
something did not worked with this scene when Louise tells
about the old native man, and it took me 10 years and a trip to
Washington where, thanks to Deirdre Lavrakas, the director, I
found the right names and bear tales : Mammakkoonih and
Wakan Tanka. Now I feel I’ve finally achieved my play.”
I followed up with the question: Is this play regional to Alberta specifically?
"As I just spent 15 days of my life at Banff, I couldn’t say I’m able to write a play in this regional way. Although lots of real details impressed me and entered my play (without me noticing the half of them). That’s the reason why I like to work elsewhere from my homecity : as soon as you’re not in your usual environment, your antennas get higher, as much as your intuition and your listening to the world. It’s as if there were stories waiting for playwrights or writers at any place, do you follow me ? It’s the echo or the spark between you, as a writer, and a precise place, anywhere, that provokes or launches your fire/your story.
Then, to me, the more regional or precisely located you are, the more international your story gets. Precise details open to globally shared emotions. The right city of Banff gave me its mountains surrounding the street where red hands signs tell not to cross the roads, but this preciseness helps french audience to think to the city of Grenoble, for example, which is also surrounded by mountains. And people who have never been there get images they’re building from different real details from their life they add together."
I am so thankful to Karin for speaking with me, she is so generous and talented. I am extremely excited to include this excerpt in my production.