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Prairie girl inspires director Print-ready version

by Alyssa Pywell
The Sheaf
November 24, 2005

Greystone's second production, Songs of a Prairie Girl celebrates Joni Mitchell and Saskatchewan's Centennial.

For some time, Artistic Director Jim Guedo has wanted to do a play with music. Incidentally, Joni Mitchell released her newest CD, Songs of a Prairie Girl, earlier this year, which celebrates her childhood and the ways in which Saskatchewan has shaped her.

Mitchell, born in Alberta and raised in Saskatchewan, refers to Saskatoon as her hometown. She has had a successful career as a songstress and has now mostly retired to focus her artistic talent on painting. However, she jumped at the chance to contribute to the celebration of Saskatchewan's centennial.

Guedo took the liberty of compiling the music from her CD into a dramatic production. He contacted an agent of Mitchell's and she sent her blessing to go ahead with the project. Guedo used all of the songs from the CD as well as a few extra  by Mitchell's request  that could not fit onto the disk.

The structure of the play is very non-traditional. Guedo warns that if one goes in expecting a specific storyline about Mitchell's life, he or she may be disappointed. The play does indeed outline how the prairies shaped Mitchell but in a more non-linear and symbolic sense.

The cast consists of eleven female actors, all of whom play the musician/artist. There is one actor as Mitchell, but rather, they each play a different part of her. For example, one plays the nine-year-old Mitchell struggling with polio, another is the rebel side of Mitchell and another plays the folk songstress. Together, the characters become a collage in representation of Mitchell herself.

All actors are consistently onstage, singing approximately twenty songs. The dialogue between musical numbers includes quotes of Mitchell herself. This dialogue is not extensive, as the focus is on music, but Guedo felt that something was needed to prevent the production from being simply a concert of her songs. Mitchell's music is very diverse in style and content and has a commendable amount of depth. This requires extensive work from the actors.

Guedo's main goal is to celebrate Mitchell's music and to spread her talent to younger generations. The play focuses on Mitchell's life and since she believes that "Saskatchewan is in [her] veins", there is a strong sense of the prairies as well. What better way to celebrate Saskatchewan's Centennial than with this woman?

Mitchell originally stated that she would not be attending the production, but requested a video recording of the show. However, Guedo has heard a rumour that she just may come after all. So, when you take in this fantastic Greystone production, take a look around the audience; you just may see a celebrity.

Songs of a Prairie Girl
November 24 to December 3 @ 8pm
Greystone Theatre
Tickets: $8 students/seniors, $12 adults, available at the Place Riel Info Kiosk and Greystone Theatre box office.

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Added to Library on August 23, 2007. (883)

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