The Westbury Award provides funds for outstanding project development and innovation. Our most recent recipient, Lindsey Walker, is bringing her creative composition and lyricism to ren & the wake, running in the Backstage Theatre April 28 – May 7, 2022. We had a chance to chat with Lindsey about the production, her work, and inspirations for the production.
This award provides funds for outstanding project development and innovation. Please tell us about your work on ren & the wake.
ren & the wake is a sort of musical based around the death of a loved one and the journey you experience when you go from grief to acceptance to understanding. The show is inspired by true stories about badass but fairly unknown women in Canada’s history and explores how we’re all connected in more ways than we know.
This show is the collaborative brainchild created by me and the Sisters Dart of Catch the Keys Productions. I am the composer and lyricist. I’ve also created my first ever sound design as part of the show!
What prompted you to focus on this project?
My grandmother! Before she passed away in 2019 when she was in her mid 90s, she was very selective about the things she would share about her past. It was only in the last few years of her life that she started to open up about certain things at certain times to certain people. I wanted so dearly to record her any time she told these stories to preserve her voice and cadence. I happened to record this incredible story about when she was living in eastern Europe in her 20s just after WWII and it gave me such great perspective on her rich and curious life. I realized how important these stories are to share. There must be more. And that’s how ren & the wake was created.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the music industry?
I very much enjoy performance of various forms, theatre and music alike. Music has allowed me to intimately examine my own life, empathize with the lives of others, and distill that into an artform that can instantly connect people. I believe music is a wonderfully powerful form of art and connection. And it combines so many artistic practices I love – singing, writing, playing music.
What is your artistic background and how have you developed your art career so far?
I started my career as an actor. I love acting. I grew up loving classic musicals. I was just enamoured with the music and the production and how a whole show can come together in such a magical way. I’ve always been deeply rooted in that. I sang and played piano and guitar from a very young age, but those practices were always a background to acting. I went to university for theatre. And after I finished that, I decided I wanted to understand music performance on its own more, so I went to MacEwan and got a music performance diploma there. But my life has always been a weaving of theatre and music. So even though I have a substantial career touring as a musician with my own project, theatre is a constant part of my life.
What is the long-term goal of ren & the wake?
I want to see this production continue to grow and evolve. We have so many ideas as a collaborative team. We are just beginning to explore what’s possible. I would love to see this performed across Canada in different theatres and found spaces. The show has such a beautiful message – I feel it would benefit from people of all walks of life seeing it, not just folks who are avid theatre lovers. I can’t wait to see how these stories and songs are received by audiences. My goal with the music all along was to create the seed and foundation so the performers could let the songs live within them, and our cast – our amazingly talented cast – has really taken on that beautiful challenge. These songs should live within all of us.
In terms of your overall artistic practice, what do you hope to gain from this experience?
I’ve never been on this side of the theatre production process before! I’m learning a deeper understanding of all that goes into producing and creating a musical. I’m always learning and growing in my own practice, and I’ll take these lessons from this production and apply it to other parts of my artistic career. I hope this helps to open doors for myself in the future to work and collaborate with people on musicals, and I also hope it extends an invitation for other artists to come to me for guidance and advice, to ask questions. Sharing a knowledge is a very important part of artistic growth. I want to help cultivate an ever-expanding group of composers and musicians and artists who maybe think they can’t write a musical but want to try. Our stories are worth telling!
Catch ren & the wake, on now until May 7, 2022! Tickets available on tickets.fringetheatre.ca.