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Love on the trap line

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 06/05) - It may feature fabulous fur stoles, gender bending and lots of drama, but this ain't your typical drag show.

The territory's only professional theatre company is presenting The Ballad of Isabel Gunn for a third season.

Written as a cannon poem by Stephen Scobie, it's the true story of a woman who crops her hair and dresses in men's clothing to join her lover in the fur trade. In this disguise, Gunn signed a three-year contract with the Hudson's Bay company in 1806.

Surrounded by a supporting cast of loons, Arctic terns, ravens, squirrels and myriad song birds, Reneltta Bourque and Chic Callas are telling Gunn's tale from a rocky stage on the Legislative Assembly grounds.

"Every year the play evolves," Bourque said. "The first year was about tackling the text. The second year was about painting the image. This year it's about exploring the intimacy of the story."

Bourque graduated this year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Alberta. She was one of only 12 students accepted out of 140 auditions. She was also the first Inuit student and the first NWT resident to earn the degree.

After performing Sophocles, Shaw and other classics in school, Bourque said she is thankful for the chance to reprise her role as Isabel Gunn.

"This is a story that touched me in a sacred place," she said.

"The people who come see this play feel that, too," Callas said.

The next Stuck in a Snowbank Theatre production will be Taste of the Wildcat, a menu of true stories from the North. It opens July 20 at the museum.