Notes from the Playwright, Stephen Massicotte
When Tai approached me with her idea of adapting Mary’s Wedding to tell a Métis love story, I was intrigued but wary. (Writers are often protective of their work and I’ve been fortunate with this play—it’s rarely been out of production since premiering at Alberta Theatre Projects in 2002—so I’ve been reluctant to mess about with it.) Her passionate belief, however, that Indigenous love stories are not only important but essential to reconciliation, well, it was quite convincing. My only caveat was that I first wanted to be sure that history backed up the adaptation’s premise.
Though I knew that Indigenous Canadians had served with distinction in WWI (and the Boer War, WWII, Korea, and onward), I must admit I was surprised to learn just how considerable their contribution had been. During WWI alone, more than 6000 Indigenous Canadians volunteered to serve, some communities with as many as one in three able-bodied men enlisting. It’s a remarkable response considering that these same men did not have the right to vote in the country whose uniform they were wearing.
When it comes to Métis volunteers, since they weren’t allowed to self-identify on their attestation papers, no definitive number exists. Approximately 1,872 of the 5,000 names on the National Métis Veterans Memorial Monument are listed as serving in WWI. In my own (amateur) research I found that at least four Indigenous men served in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse from 1914 through 1918: Albert Cook, an Ojibway Trooper killed at Festubert; Wilfred Wallace Pruden, a Métis Trooper who was wounded and survived the war; and the Secwépemc brothers, Troopers Donald and Whitfield Haldane, both of whom died in 1918 (Donald of wounds sustained at Moreuil Wood).
I confess that I’m embarrassed to have doubted that history would support Tai’s adaptation—as I found, the historical record more than validated it. But when I was initially researching Mary’s Wedding, these were facts that I not only missed, it hadn’t occurred to me to notice them. I’m grateful that Tai has given me the opportunity to undo that bit of cultural myopia. Surprisingly few lines were changed for Tai’s adaptation, really, but they’ve brought a whole new haunting relevance to the play as it tells a previously unknown Canadian love story. Well, not really unknown. Some people knew. Tai knew. I thank her for teaching me.
Notes from the Director, Jenna Rodgers
When Tai Amy Grauman first spoke to me about Mary’s Wedding, it was on the phone. We hadn’t even met yet – but we had been introduced by a mutual friend, and she was speaking passionately about her dream role, and how she was going to manifest it into being. If you don’t know Tai, you should know that this is often how she speaks – and for good reason: she has an incredible ability to make things happen. She chases her dreams with a relentless abandon, and I had no idea the extraordinary force of a human that I had encountered at this very first phone call.
Sure enough, 6 months later, here we are about to open a brand new adaptation of a beloved Canadian classic. This is a very fast timeline for Canadian theatre, which is especially notable given the current circumstances.
This past spring, COVID-19 ground the performing arts industry to a halt. Many of us, myself included, found ourselves juggling cancelled contracts, productions that were cut short, or shows that never saw an audience. Our industry entered a pause. And during this time of pause, we saw a rise in racial tension in both Canada and the United States. We witnessed police violence, protest, and civil unrest. This pause gave many of our population time to think. Time to reflect. For performing artists, it was a time to examine our practices. To ask ourselves why we tell the stories we tell. To dream of what the future of Canadian theatre could be.
Mary’s Wedding: A Métis Love Story offers a blend of the familiar with the un-(or under)told. In our slow and careful return to live performance, we are asking you, dear audience, to shift your expectations. Perhaps tonight you will find a culturally Métis story more relatable than you anticipated. Perhaps you will learn something about the original inhabitants of Amiskwaciy, of Treaty 6 Territory; of this place we call Edmonton. Or, perhaps you are Métis (Tansi!), and you are seeing some of your culture reflected back to you for the first time.
It is my hope that this love story provides you with a little taste of what you might need right now. Art is balm for a tired soul, and in a time where our gathering has been restricted, I think we are all in need of a little balm. To me, this script is an invitation to linger in love. To spend a bit more time dreaming. Thank you for joining us in the dream.