Sounder Arts

On March 16, Gabriola’s Melanie Teichroeb took her solo show Shield Maiden to the stage at Port Theatre in Nanaimo.

Teichroeb spoke to the Sounder after the show, saying that it had been the Port Discovery Series for emerging artists team which had approached her to perform.

“They informed me that I had been chosen. It’s not easy to get noticed when there is so much great artistic work out there to choose from. I am constantly hustling to find avenues, doorways. The Discovery Series at the Port gave me exposure to some heavy hitters though and future plans are being made.”

The production is a 10th century version of a Ted Talk on life as a Viking woman warrior. It’s funny, sexy, fierce and unapologetic. Written and performed by Teichroeb, Shield Maiden shows the audience that they have more in common with medieval era warrior, Ingrid Larsdöttir, than they could imagine.

The solo show shines a light on contemporary issues like inequality and sexism using humour and vulnerability.

Teichroeb was asked how important are programs likes this for emerging artists?

Teichroeb said they are vital for three reasons.

“1. Rarely do local artists (especially theatre artists) get the opportunity to perform in this level of venue

“2. It’s important for Vancouver Island to see local talent and be proud of the amazing work coming from our own region. Love Local!

“3. This program gives me a powerful springboard to now go forth and sell my show to other communities. It doesn’t mean other theatres will necessarily be interested in presenting my show but having the weight of the Port’s support behind me might help. I still have to hustle though. No guarantees.”

Teichroeb explained Shield Maiden first showcased at the 2018 Gabriola Arts Council Cultivate Festival. It has also traveled to theatre festivals within BC, Teichroeb’s native home of Austin, Texas (she will explain Texan by birth, Canadian by choice), and was invited and preformed at the prestigious United Solo Theatre Festival in New Yok City in fall of 2019.

Since those performances, and through the pandemic, she says the character Ingrid has stayed the same.

“She was always very clear in my mind. I (Melanie) changed significantly in the last five years both as a performer on stage and as a human out in the world.

“Those two years [of COVID] without stages to play on allowed the character to develop more fully within me and it gave me time to learn how to play with that potent warrior energy without breaking everything around me.

“Warrior energy and rage are very powerful dynamics.”

At the Port Theatre, there was an American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation being done. Teichroeb said she had asked for the inclusion of an ASL interpreter and the Port was, “happy to make that happen. I’m doing a deeper dive into how I can make my art more accessible to communities that might have barriers to access. There were members of the deaf community that came out to the show and they were so excited to have a live interpreter. It helped that Katt Campbell, our interpreter was amazing!

“Did everyone learn the sign for Vag Viking? If not, come up to me next time you see me in the Village and I can teach it to you.”

Will Shield Maiden be continuing to travel and spread the news this year anywhere else?

Teichroeb says, “Yes! Onwards and upwards! Stay tuned!”

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