Talking writing and Metis stories with Tai Amy Grauman
It’s been three years since PTC had the privilege of having playwright Tai Amy Grauman as part of WrightSpace, our playwright’s residency program. You used to call me Marie…, a play that follows the souls of Iskwewo and Napew living six different lives at six different distinct periods in history, has made its journey from the page to the stage this past year. Tai has also adapted Mary’s Wedding for Citadel Theatre’s current season bringing more Metis voices to our stages. We caught up with Tai to reflect on her writing journey, and what is to come in the near future.
Since our 2018 WrightSpace, it’s been a pleasure to watch You Used to Call Me Marie develop and grow as a play. We know your talent as a performer and theatre artist, but what got you into writing?
I started writing because I wanted to have agency over the roles I played. Every play I have written, I write a woman I want to embody on stage. So I guess I started writing because I wanted to be on stage. Now they go hand in hand….. I’ve lost track of where one ends and where the other begins.
Recently you’ve been to Caravan Farm with You used to call me Marie…., which resulted in a performance of it at Métis Crossing, so the play has gone through some fresh growth: How would you describe your writing process for your plays? What are the key values for your process?
I would describe my process as “flow.” I never once forced a single word, development phase or collaborator on You used to call me Marie…. I let things fall into place, I let my intuition guide me and I trusted my heart even when there was no logic behind it or what I was asking for seemed far-fetched. So I actually don’t feel like I have a concrete process…. I just follow my heart, walk by the river, hang out with horses, pray and dream.
Mary’s Wedding: A Metis love story at Citadel is a welcomed live theatre performance as we transition out of the pandemic. I heard there was some prompting by you for that adaptation to be created and produced. For you, what makes Mary’s Wedding an effective vehicle for Metis identity and culture?
Mary’s Wedding has always spoke to my heart. So I listened to that and decided that I wanted to adapt it before I even thought about how I would technically do it. The other important thing to note is that I was always told I wouldn’t be an “ingenue” because of my size, the way my voice sounds, and even the way I carry myself. I knew that if I wanted to play Mary, I would have to make it happen myself. And so it just made sense to adapt it so that I could just be me… Instead of trying to be another version of Mary that I would never fit. Stephen Massoicote wrote Mary’s Wedding when he was living in Alberta and so the physical topography of the piece and all the imagery is from Alberta. The status of Mary and Charlie also spoke to a really interesting grey area in Metis history, which is the age of the road allowance peoples and the scrip system. It also gave me the opportunity to highlight my ancestor’s history in World War I as many Callihoo men served on behalf of the Canadian army. All in all, it works because it’s about love. I changed some things, added some things and rewrote some things, but it works because my heart is very similar to Mary’s. I’m proud of the adaptation that I have created because it has heightened stakes…. It really tells the story of road allowance boys who fell through the cracks. And at the end of the day, Mary is just an Alberta girl who falls deeply in love with a boy she finds in a barn. And I have been that girl, many a time..
What are things that you hope your plays and theatre creations convey to audiences and your communities?
Big Metis love. I just want to share Metis love, life, song and dance with audience. My people and our love stories are my most favourite thing in the world…. So the least I can do is share it.
Where do you see you going next after You used to call me Marie….? Any juicy, new things for us to look forward to?
Right now I am entering the second year of my MFA at the U of A in theatre practice. My thesis is all the Metis love stories I have written, so I’m looking forward to learning more and diving deeper and deeper into these stories. This upcoming year, I am focusing and developing my play Wiwimaw which is a commission with Nighswimming. Wiwimaw is the counterpart to You used to call me Marie…. Wiwimaw is these women’s love stories without the men, it’s all the things that I wasn’t ready to write three years ago when I started writing You used to call me Marie…. So that’s next!
Missed the live production of Mary’s Wedding? Not local to Edmonton? Connect with Citadel Theatre to find out when a recording of Mary’s Wedding will be streamed online!
Tai Amy Grauman is Metis, Cree and Haudenosaunee from Ardrossan, Alberta. She is an actor, playwright and emerging director and producer. Tai is an artistic associate at Savage Society and an associate artist at the Citadel Theatre and currently pursuing her MFA in theatre practice at the U of A. She was named the Metis Nation of Alberta’s outstanding youth of 2020. Tai is currently writing commissions for Nightswimming, Axis theatre and the Arts Club. Selected Acting Credits include: Honour Beat (Grand Theatre), Thanks For Giving (Arts Club). You used to call me Marie… (Savage Productions Society). Upcoming: Vanessa Brokenhorn in The Herd (The Citadel/ Tarragon Theatre). Assistant Director for Little Red Warriror and his Lawyer (The Belfry/ Savage Productions Society).