Sum Theater aims to make the performing arts accessible to everyone with a northern tour

After 10 years of performing in Saskatoon and Regina, the Sum Theater Artistic Association plans to bring Theater in the Park north.

From June 15-18, Sum Theater will present the original tale “wâhkôhtowin” at four different Nordic outdoor venues, including Prince Albert. Sum’s co-manager and artistic associate Mackenzie Dawson said they were trying to attract a more diverse audience compared to a regular production.

“We try to do theater for people who often don’t go to theaters,” Dawson said with a laugh. “For anyone who thinks, ‘I don’t know, I don’t really like theater. I’ve never been to theater before,’ we welcome them with open arms. It’s actually most of our audience.

The performers touch down in Prince Albert on Wednesday, but the journey north has taken years. Dawson said they’ve always wanted to boost theater in areas outside of Saskatchewan’s two largest cities, but have been unable to do so until now.

Sum’s Theater in the Park production is a six-week tour that spans across the province. The goal is to give families a taste of professional theater performances, and Dawson said making it free and accessible in outdoor public spaces is an easy way to ensure that happens.

“Some people will hear about the show ahead of time and they have it planned out,” Dawson explained. “But more and more, especially as we reach new communities, it’s just someone walking in the evening and they see there’s a show.

“In Regina, we had a show this week where there were kids walking around, they find out there’s a play on, and then they go, ‘Okay, I’ll get five of my friends and I’ll come back right now.’ ”

The title of Wednesday’s show, “wâhkôhtowin”, means “all my relations” in Cree. The show uses live music, giant puppets, and audience participation to focus not just on human relationships, through human connections with land, water, and sky.

“We’ve all felt the loss of connection over the past two years,” said actor and Sum Theater arts association Krystle Pederson. “The performance is a call to rebuild what has been broken and to heal.”

“(Viewers) can expect a lot of fun,” Dawson added. “We don’t do anything that isn’t fun. They can expect to see a giant setup that looks like a gymnasium in the jungle. It’s part jungle gym, part nightclub, and part giant puppet extravaganza.

The Prince Albert show lasts approximately 45 minutes and begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. outside King George Public Elementary School. Free entry. An ASL interpreter will be available.

The company also has scheduled performances in Waskesiu, La Ronge and Stanley Mission, the latter of which is under review due to wildfire evacuations.

Ideally, Dawson said, this will be the first of many trips north for Sum Theater.

“All of these northern communities that we have contact with, we want it to be an ongoing relationship,” he said.

“We’re not here just once. We want people to get to know us, and seek us out the next time we go to a show.