Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP) brought their latest show to Ecole Morden Middle School on Feb. 22.
Torn Through Time tells the story of a 10-year-old student Jess (Hera Nalam) whose class is given the assignment of picking a hero from history to do a presentation on.
Facing bullies and frustrated as she tries to find a subject, Jess rips the pages out of a book and summons three women from history: Thanadelthur (MacLean), Rose Fortune (Reena Jolly) and Helen Harrison (Alissa Watson).
The three women appear in their 10-year-old selves, and they must work together to get back to their proper time.
Kathleen MacLean, who played 1700s peacemaker Thanadelthur, said that the topic of Torn Through Time is especially timely.
“I’m hoping that students take away that anybody can be a hero,” she said. “It’s about figuring that out and not being afraid of other people’s expectations. It’s about who you are and what you want to do, and succeeding in what you need to do.”
“It’s incredible also to have such a diverse cast,” she said. “I think it’s so important because it’s incredibly representative. I am Indigenous and I play an Indigenous woman. There is a woman from history who was a black slave and then Hera [Nalam] represents so much of the Philipino population in Winnipeg, so you get so many different representations, and then it’s also about women being strong and working together.”
One of the reasons the playwrights chose Thanadelthur (peacemaker), Rose Fortune (the first North American female police officer) and Helen Harrison (one of the first female Canadian pilots) was because they aren’t very well known. “These women all existed way deep in the past and nobody knows about them,” MacLean said. “Everyone always talks about all these male notable Canadians and the things they did, but nobody ever talks about the women.”
MTYP will be putting on 76 different showings of the play, many of them in locations across the province. The actors put on their show twice at EMMS and will be continuing to travel until March 22.
MacLean said students have been receptive to the play. “We’ve been kind of nervous in regards to taking it to schools with especially young boys, but even the young boys have been incredibly receptive and are willing to engage in the Q&As after the show,” she said. “That’s really awesome.”
MacLean said performing in new locales can bring new challenges with it. “The flooring makes a world of difference because of the panels that we have that are on wheels,” she said. “The acoustics of every gym is so different, sometimes it’s really echoey so when kids start to get restless you can really hear them.”
The show took the three playwrights Carrie Costello, Frances Koncan and Cherissa Richards three and a half years to put together. “It’s always difficult to have three people writing one show because everybody has to be consulted about what’s cut, what’s added,” MacLean said. “Even for us in the middle of the rehearsal period, when we would come upon something that didn’t make sense we would have to wait because it would need to clear through all three of them.”
“Even then we get questions from the Q&A where there’s still probably some tweaking that could be done,” she added. “Because it’s a new show, that’s expected.”