Portrait of a misfit

Playwright Patrick Friesen looks to his great-grandmother for inspiration in A Short History of Crazy Bone

Advertisement

Advertise with us

In 2016, Winnipeg-based actress Tracey Nepinak worked on a double-drama for Theatre Projects Manitoba titled Reservations. In the second of two short plays, Nepinak had to recite an entire lecture on philosopher Martin Heidegger that might have challenged the memorization skills of even the most accomplished of actors. Bear in mind: most plays offer the benefit of give-and-take with fellow actors to break up the text and provide cues to the next lines.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/03/2018 (1655 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In 2016, Winnipeg-based actress Tracey Nepinak worked on a double-drama for Theatre Projects Manitoba titled Reservations. In the second of two short plays, Nepinak had to recite an entire lecture on philosopher Martin Heidegger that might have challenged the memorization skills of even the most accomplished of actors. Bear in mind: most plays offer the benefit of give-and-take with fellow actors to break up the text and provide cues to the next lines.

In her new play for TPM, Nepinak has all the lines, playing the title role of a Mennonite woman who is driven to the edges of her community because of a refusal to play by its rules.

“This is 10 times (the amount of text), or maybe 20,” says Nepinak. “But I love the challenge. It’s terrifying but it’s satisfying too.”

DYLAN HEWLETT Tracey Nepinak has all the lines in A Short History of Crazy Bone, but shares the stage with dancers Zorya Arrow, Arne MacPherson, David Arial and Tracy Penner.

Nepinak is not alone on the rectangular stage, a flat expanse interrupted by a rude bump at one end. Four other performers, actors and dancers, silently share the space, acting as chorus, or townsfolk or human props.

“It’s a beautiful journey and it’s fun and exciting working with the dancers,” Nepinak says, adding that the character of Crazy Bone is a compelling enigma.

“She’s an outsider,” Nepinak says. “She’s a part of the community, but different.

“She’s kind of quirky. As you go through the play, you ask: Is she crazy or just different?

“She is just passionate and not able to fit into the structure expected of a 1950s-era housewife,” Nepinak says. “She’s expected to play and she can’t do it.

“I guess that’s her struggle, coming to terms with just being who she is, and people not allowing her to be who she is.”

● ● ●

Playwright Patrick Friesen admits the character of Crazy Bone is based on his own great-grandmother.

“She was an inspiration,” Friesen says. “I wouldn’t say she resembles her exactly, but my great-grandmother has always been an inspiration in my life. She died when I was 10.”

Friesen, 71, was born in Steinbach and lived in Winnipeg before his teaching career took him to his current home in Victoria, B.C. A Short History of Crazy Bone, which started life as poem, was as much a product of his Mennonite background as his celebrated other plays, which include The Shunning and The Raft, which were both produced at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

This drama, directed by Andraea Sartison, offers a poetic portrait of a misfit.

Supplied Patrick Friesen was born in Steinbach, but these days calls Victoria home.

“She had been born in Ukraine, and came over as a four year old and had a rather dramatic life,” Friesen says. “By the time I was born, she was quite old and staying with her grandchildren. She’d stay with us for a month and then stay with another grandchild.”

Those month-long visits left Friesen with some vivid childhood memories.

“Somehow, I absorbed something from her,” he says. “I remember sitting beside her in the backyard shelling peas, with her old working hands into a bowl, in an old-fashioned dress from Ukraine.

“She was a trickster. I did observe that,” Friesen says. “She had a twinkle in her eye and she would make people do odd things and they didn’t know they’d been manipulated into a joke.

“Around a table, she would start an argument and then back away, and half an hour later, people would say: ‘How did this start?’ And she’d be sitting there smiling.

“I think I connected with her through all that stuff, as a teenager,” he says. “She was a maverick, a rogue, and I latched onto that as a kid.

“I always wanted to write about her because I think, by her existence, she gave me permission to be a writer,” Friesen says. “I grew up in a community where that wasn’t the first thing you did.”

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

Report Error Submit a Tip

Advertisement

Advertise With Us