Getting Space to Speak
In a previous article, we highlighted the work of Sum Theatre in Saskatoon, a Youth + Us partner that offers free programming, a focus on the community, and amplification for underrepresented Indigenous voices. While they offer many entertainment options throughout the season, one of their biggest draws is Theatre in the Park – an annual run of shows in multiple parks and green spaces in Saskatoon and nearby towns. In 2021, the featured show is The Other Side of the River, an introspective look at the dangers of racism and discrimination presented via catchy songs and colours that are intended to start discussions among generations.
The composer of the play, Amanda Trapp, has worked closely with Sum Theatre dramaturge Yvette Nolan for several years now, as an upcoming artist benefiting from Youth + Us’s Indigenous Artists Mentorship Program. A biracial woman with Cree-Saulteaux ancestry and a self-proclaimed “child without roots”, Amanda and her family moved often when she was younger, and after her graduation from high school in Regina she moved to Toronto for theatre school. Coming to Saskatoon for a performance contract allowed her to discover a personal “Goldilocks community”, enabling a welcome and genuine connection to the city and its people. Now, she proudly explores her craft as a musical artist, contributing to the Indigenous stories of the community and enjoying the space to grow and flourish.
“Getting to work with Sum Theatre has changed my life – especially with Yvette, who is such a great influence,” Amanda says. “You’re given the opportunity to be in a space where you’re not the only Indigenous artist, and there are other voices in the room. There’s a real honour given to our opinions and views, and that’s a very rare experience in this industry.” She explains how differently this mindset is from when she began her career. “I’ve seen that I can make art, and be myself, and be supported. I feel like I’m helping the larger community, and I’m not willing to erase my identity to fit into less Indigenous spaces.”
Those spaces are often discussed in both Amanda’s work, and that of Sum Theatre in general – and these days, they are more important than ever. As a cultural representative that emphasizes Indigenous voices and inspires those who may follow, Amanda understands the impact that her words and music can have. “Music has such a great power to cut through everything – you feel it right in your heart,” she explains. “I’m biracial, and it’s a unique experience that’s difficult to put succinctly into words, because it’s different for everyone. But there are a lot of kids out there, young people who can see themselves as the kid in the show. And the lyrics highlight those two sides, and I hope they feel less alone.”
With a shared focus on helping the next generation to flourish, Amanda’s work aligns well with Youth + Us – and having a place to express those ideas and inspire engaging conversations is an exciting and emotional opportunity. “Being able to compose my first score with Sum Theatre, of all theatres – I couldn’t ask for a better place to take that risk. There were no mistakes; just growing and learning,” she affirms. “And I’ve rediscovered my culture through this theatre. Indigenous women and girls like me now have a space in the industry. It’s impossible to put a price on an outcome like that.”