By Emily Carrigan
“Give me a big rock, show me the patriarchy and I will smash the heck out of it.”
Sharon King-Campbell is an Ottawa-grown theatre-maker now based in St. John’s, Newfoundland. A woman of many hats, she writes, acts, directs and, most importantly, tells stories. King-Campbell is coming to Ottawa this weekend to tell the story of Original, a sixty minute one-woman show portraying three of the world’s first or “original” women of myth.
Original tours around the Ottawa area this weekend, first in Chelsea on Friday, then to Ottawa for a house show on Saturday and finally Pressed on Sunday, before heading back to Newfoundland to tour the island.
When you first read the words “one woman show” you might anticipate another feminist view of the current state of affairs. And you would be absolutely right to do so.
King-Campbell has always found an importance in having an interpersonal connection with her audience through storytelling. This remounted version has gone back to the roots of the show.
“We really pulled back to this less theatrical more storytelling version which is what I was picturing when I was writing it and it feels very right,” she said.
The show opens with King-Campbell as Embla, the first woman in Norse mythology. A character you may not recognize as easily as the other two (Eve and Pandora), Embla has very little in ways of her own story. Odin walks past an elm tree, thinks it looks like a human and turns it into the first woman. King-Campbell takes this short story and expands on the character so much that she becomes the host of the whole play.
“I made her a storyteller to begin with; the first line in the show is Embla’s. She tells the story of her creation and of Norse cyclical mythology,” King-Campbell said. “She talks about Ragnarök and the rebirth of the world following Ragnarök. So she is able to take on the other ladies’ stories as well, she introduces both Eve and Pandora by giving us the basic story that we all know and lets them talk about what is and is not real about the story that’s in the social consciousness.”
“Let’s re-examine these stories. Let’s give them back to the women who experience them.”—Sharon King-Campbell
Original casts light on the connection between society and storytelling by showing us where we come from and how we got where we are today.
“[Myths] become our foundation stories that we build our society on, stories that we tell each other about who we are,” she said. “We’re all susceptible to it, if we’re told over and over and over again that we have to look a certain way, that we have to work harder than the men in our sphere to be respected and those lessons are reinforced by the behaviour in the people around us, then we start to believe those things.” King-Campbell is trying to reassert the power that these figures have to craft their own narratives.
“Let’s re-examine these stories. Let’s give them back to the women who experience them. Imagine them in the perspective of these women with a compassionate eye and let the stories deconstruct themselves so we can start building something that is more beneficial to the world and people in society.”
Original is not just the origin story of these three original women but also the origin story of all of our society as a whole. As King-Campbell notes, “If we can carefully examine where we were before, hopefully we can avoid going there again.”