Part rock concert, part musical, part cabaret, part un-fairytale; Wyrd has it all, and Yukoners will be the first to enjoy it at the world premiere on March 16 at the Yukon Arts Centre.
The idea for the musical comedy and satire was first conceived in 2017, springing from a conversation between Angela Drainville and Katherine McCallum at their first meeting. In sharing stories of dark experiences they’d survived, the pair found themselves laughing, bonding over the humour they found in those dark places, and coming out the other side.
While the subject matter is dark, the musical itself is a comedy. McCallum says that even though the original inspiration was that they had endured abuse, the theatrical piece that has resulted from the years of work after that initial meeting is actually “delightfully funny, and a little bit dark, and very subversive.”
Many people experience some form of abuse, oppression or misogyny at some point in their life, and one of the principal aspects of Wyrd is that universality, and how we come through it to the other side. Finding the humanity in it, being able to make it funny, is a form of catharsis, of healing.
“Healing through humour,” McCallum says, is an important core aspect of Wyrd. “It’s absolutely not a funny subject. But I don’t think people can really heal or learn unless they’re able to sit back away from it a little bit, and take it in on a level that isn’t accusatory or too heavy.”
“Comedy is the Greek tragedy,” says Meg Braem, co-writer and dramaturge, about the juxtaposition, dark subject matter handled deftly through comedy. “You need that yin and yang, and you need that balance. Sometimes one is a palate cleanser for the other.”
“How to transform trauma through humor,” says Britt Small, director and co-creator, “[is] one of the first things we did.”
It was important to the creators that the crew be 100 per cent woman-identified or non-binary, in a large part due to the nature of the subject matter, and the shared experiences. Having underrepresented voices in the industries spotlighted was very much a goal during the process of creating Wyrd.
“We all came in with the story of a woman we felt was underrepresented in history,” says Small. “Sometimes when group of women or non-binary people get together, sometimes it feels like a safer space to be able to say certain things.”
“I think because of the way that facilitated the work, everybody felt very safe, says Braem. “I think people felt very respected. And I think one of the big things was to look around and go: ‘Oh my gosh, like every person in this room has some kind of experience with it at some point in their life’ and so even just being in a place where you can talk about it, I think is community building.”
That commonality of experience resonated with everyone involved, say Braem, Small, and McCallum, which made for an incredible experience, while also presenting challenges. It seemed as if everyone involved with the project, or hoping to be involved, had a story to share, a tale they wanted told. With such a vast array, the great challenge became weaving these myriad stories together into a cohesive whole.
“Everyone in the writers room, in the creation room, in the rehearsal room, we’ve all been there and suffered through it in various degrees,” says McCallum. “Everybody’s story is different, but it’s incredibly cathartic and healing. It’s been the safest room I’ve ever been in, in a work situation. I think that that’s a part of what makes this project so special is that it’s just been 100 per cent positive and reassuring and safe for people to express themselves. I think that everybody that’s been involved in this project has come out of it stronger, more empowered, and supported in their own lives as well as their art, and it’s been just phenomenal in that way. I still feel like this is the most incredible wonderful project that I’ve ever been involved in.”
Together, the crew built a community, a safe place where they could work together to share their stories, support one another, and create this unique musical that hopes to shine a humourous light on a dark subject, so audiences can laugh at the ridiculousness and absurdity of it all, when it can seem so inescapable at the time.
“We ended up with, in my opinion, some of Canada’s funniest, most intelligent and talented writers and theatre creators on this piece, and I’m just blown away at how lucky we got,” says McCallum.
“It just be[came] this total wealth of talent and voices and opinions and thoughts and feelings and everything, but all working together towards the single goal. It has been one of the most nourishing processes I’ve ever been a part of,” says Braem.
Weaving humour and wit through a tale of swamps and hags and sketchy motels, the experiences of everyone involved have been deftly spun into this musical comedy and satire, a wickedly funny show for everyone to enjoy.
“It really is a celebration,” says Braem. “Really feeling like you’re part of something fun and amazing.”
“Hopefully the audience will be having all the fun,” McCallum laughs. “That’s the whole point. Really the whole thing from the very beginning is about sharing this as widely as possible and entertaining people in a way that is thoughtful and hopefully change-making.”
Wyrd will be at the Yukon Arts Center March 16 to 19, with shows in Dawson City March 31 and April 1, and in Haines Junction April 7. From there, the show moves south to start the next leg on its cross-country tour at the Metro Theatre in Victoria, opening May 18.
Storm Blakley is a freelance writer and poet based in Whitehorse.