Women of the Fur Trade

By Frances Končan

2024-01-17 20:00 2024-01-27 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Women of the Fur Trade


In-person event

In association with Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa) and Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto.) In eighteen hundred and something something, somewhere upon the banks of a Reddish River in Treaty One Territory, three very different women with a preference for twenty-first century slang sit in a fort sharing their views on life, love, and the hot nerd Louis Riel. This lively historical satire of survival and cultural inheritance shifts perspectives from the male gaze onto women’s...

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Azrieli Studio,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
January 17 - 27, 2024

≈ 1 hour and 45 minutes · No intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: January 19, 2024

Playwright's Note

When I wrote the first draft of this play, a feedback note I got several times was that there's nothing interesting about women sitting in a room and talking.

Of course, that draft was written slightly before Miriam Toews' novel Women Talking — which heavily featured women talking (sometimes near Ben Whishaw) — and well before Greta Gerwig's Barbie created an entire universe of women who talk (often to each other, sometimes near Ryan Gosling).

Now, Ben Whishaw and/or Ryan Gosling may never star in a production of Women of the Fur Trade (unless...?), and it may never get adapted into a film directed by my childhood hero and living legend Sarah Polley (unless...?), but I like to think this perfectly historically accurate depiction of life during the Fur Trade plays a small part in the growing genre of stories where women sit around and talk.

Sitting around and talking sounds like a small thing. But historically, it's been pretty important. That's where things get shared: good news, bad news, secrets, wishes, dreams, hopes, fears, and most of all, stories.

A Note From The Artistic Director, Indigenous Theatre

I first saw Women of the Fur Trade at Native Earth Performing Arts, Weesageechak Festival as part of the Aminikiig Creators Unit in Toronto in 2019. Even at that early stage when the show was still in the midst of development and being workshopped, it was hilarious. Francis is a brilliant artist capable of biting social commentary that is simultaneously hysterical and heartwarming. Time and space, historical facts and celebrity fandom, colonialism, frenemies, and female camaraderie are all spun together in this delightful and surprising satire.

I am especially proud of this play because our former Indigenous Theatre Artistic Associate, Dr. Lindsay Lachance, worked on it with Francis as the dramaturge. We had originally planned to present Women of the Fur Trade in our 2020-21 season but were, of course, disrupted by the global pandemic. It is my extreme pleasure to finally be able to share this production with you alongside our wonderful partners at GCTC and Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto, where the show will be at the Aki Studio in April.

A Note From The Artistic Director, Great Canadian Theatre Company

GCTC is delighted to partner with NAC Indigenous Theatre and Native Earth Performing Arts to bring this production to life.

My first interaction with this play was seeing an early iteration that Frances staged at the Toronto Fringe Festival. My eyes were in competition with each other as to which could spill more liquid down my face while I was bent over wheezing with laughter. Frances’ writing is whip smart and hilarious, skewering and delighting in our contemporary cultural tropes while simultaneously taking aim at the misogyny and racism of Canadian history, offering an unapologetically anachronistic Indigenous feminist revisionist narrative.

I had previously met Frances in Winnipeg and experienced her generous and penetrating gaze on theatre, while finding her to be a bit of a celebrity in herself. Tender and ironic, uncompromising and iconic, Frances has a unique voice in theatre on this land. Her irreverent treatment of weighty topics creates space for us to process in community, buoyed by life affirming laughter and new ways of seeing. This script has deepened and grown since its early iterations and is now on some of our most prestigious stages, including this one. With Frances’ deft skills and the craft of the remarkable artists gathered around this production, you are in for a treat.


A Note From The Artistic Director, Native Earth Performing Arts

We are thrilled to be co-producing this new production of Women of the Fur Trade alongside GCTC and NAC Indigenous Theatre. This is a wonderful show for anyone that knows who Louis Riel was. For those that might not be as well-versed in Canada’s past, what a treat for you to learn some RIEL history.

Speaking of Riel history, Native Earth is looking forward to finally bringing this fully realized production to Toronto this Spring. After a hugely successful Toronto Fringe run and a Weesageechak Begins to Dance reading in 2018, Women of the Fur Trade’s return to the Aki Studio stage will be hugely welcomed. We are delighted to continue supporting Frances and their stellar work.

Women of the Fur Trade sips its way through a delicious blend of historical references, zodiac signs, pop culture humour, and so. many. letters. It’s one of my favourite shows to perform, and I’m honoured to now be part of a new team's journey in bringing this show to life.

Chi-miigwetch to our partners and congratulations to all involved, we are honoured to be in this circle with you.

All my relations.

Content Notes

What is the play about? 

Women of the Fur Trade is a funny take on Canadian history. It puts women and Indigenous people at the centre, using relatable language, humour, and pop culture from today. 

The play features women as the main characters and the historically important men are shown as heartthrobs and betrayers, not heroes. The play shows real historical events from a fictional female view for a playful and modern look at history. 

Who is this play for? 

This play is suitable for adults or well-prepared young people aged 13 and above.  

Age ratings are a guide, but you know best what's suitable for you. Feel free to ask the Box Office team if you have any questions not mentioned here. 

What are the themes in the play? 

You may notice themes of: 

- Division of labour, rights, and equality. 
- Land acknowledgements, reconciliation, and treaties. 
- Marriage and religion. 
- Astrology, love, and fate. 
- Instagram and pop culture. 
- Strong language and sexuality. 
- Betrayal. 
- Racism, the 60s scoop, and white supremacy. 
- War, genocide, treason, and death by hanging. 

What technical parts are used? 

You may hear sounds of: 

- Boiling water, howling, and baby cries. 
- Gunshots, rope creaking and droning. 

You may see: 

- Projections of the Northern Lights. 
- Thrown objects. 
- Staged fighting with sticks as guns. 
- A hanging scene with a falling noose. 

Creator Q&A with Frances Končan

What inspired your focus on this period of Indigenous history? 

The fur trade is an important time in the history of Turtle Island and is a part of the school curriculum in Manitoba. It was an era I had learned a lot about as a kid, but never engaged with as an adult, until the creation of the annual Louis Riel Day (the equivalent of “Family Day” in many other Provinces) in 2008. This political and cultural recognition of the importance of Louis Riel in the creation of Manitoba sparked my curiosity about revisiting the history I had been taught - and in doing so, discovered that I been taught a lot of misinformation about both Riel himself as well as the Fur Trade. Wanting to re-teach myself the true history, I began obsessively reading anything I could find about that time period and came up against another thing that made me curious: that all the letters and history documentation I was reading came from the perspectives of men. Really, I just wanted to hear what the women were doing, and what they thought. And since I couldn't find much, I thought I'd write about it myself.

When looking at information available about women in this period, were there any significant roadblocks in your research? Did you find anything that surprised you? 

The major roadblock was really what was also the catalyst for the play - there's not a lot of documentation from the women's perspective. Those voices, when they are present, are present within a framing of history from the perspective of men. I think this is true for many things, though, and thankfully changing.

Did you have any concerns with tackling history through humour? How did you overcome them? 

I think the biggest concern in place when telling stories about real-life events is examining the level of responsibility you have to truth. An initial idea for the play really was just telling a story about Louis Riel and the Fur Trade - and as the play grew, and the tone shifted, it began moving away from history and into a more anachronistic space where there was more freedom in terms of humour. Additionally, because the play centres the voices of the women, who are in positions of subordination and don't have any power of their own, those characters have access to comedy as a tool and a weapon in a way that the male characters don't (they get to use real weapons, instead).

The play’s three lead characters are diverse in their origin, beliefs, and opinions. What impact do you hope this will have on the roles written for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women? 

My interest in playwriting came from this lack of opportunities for Indigenous artists, and this play was no different. And very often, stories about Indigenous people take a serious tone. My hope for the impact of this play is to open up the perspectives on what Indigenous stories are and how they are told, and to offer opportunities for Indigenous artists to set aside the weight of those important but heavy stories, and just get to have a little bit of fun. 

Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC)

The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) is celebrating its 49th Season in 2023-24. GCTC is dedicated to producing outstanding theatre that provokes examination of (Canadian) life and our place in the world. GCTC aims to increase the diversity on its stages, in its creative teams, make its work inclusive for more audiences, and deepen their experience. GCTC embraces artistic risk and promotes a wide range of theatrical experiences.

Native Earth Performing Arts

Native Earth Performing Arts is Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous performing arts company. Currently, in our 42nd year, we are dedicated to developing, producing, and presenting professional artistic expressions of the Indigenous experience in Canada. Through stage productions (theatre, dance, and multi-disciplinary art), new script development, apprenticeships, and internships, Native Earth seeks to fulfill a community of artistic visions. It is a vision that is inclusive and reflective of the artistic directions of members of the Indigenous community who actively participate in the arts.

Stream Space Girl at Home

Watch Space Girl from Women of the Fur Trade playwright, Frances Končan! Available to stream at home January 17 – 28, 2024 from Prairie Theatre Exchange

Lyra is the first person born on the moon, and the number one social media influencer in the galaxy. But her 21st birthday is off to a rocky start - she suddenly discovers that she's been knocked down to the number two position! Oh, yeah, and an asteroid is heading straight for the earth and all her followers. An emergency escape pod crash-lands Lyra on Earth to begin an epic journey to find her way home, aided by some decidedly odd individuals…plus an ex-Hollywood star who is now farming in Manitoba. What they say is true: “there's no place like home”, even if your home is on the moon.

Filmed immediately after the live run in March/April 2023, the digital version of Space Girl captures all the action, comedy, adventure and sci-fi special effects of the live performance.

A rollicking, sci-fi/adventure/comedy, Space Girl tackles complex themes of social media influence, environmental crisis, colonization, friendship, feminism, and identity, as Lyra – with help from characters she meets along the way – attempts to save Earth from a meteoric Armageddon.

Stream the whimsical, action-packed, and satire-laced story of Lyra, the first social media influencer to be born on the Moon. Tickets are Pay What You Want: $5, $10, $20, available at https://www.pte.mb.ca/performances/space-girl-digital.

Prairie Theatre Exchange

Winnipeg’s second largest professional theatre company, Prairie Theatre Exchange celebrated 50 years in the community in 2022. Their vision is to be vital, relevant, and responsive. They strive to be a centre for innovation in theatre and performance practice: a home for interdisciplinary and diverse works. They are a home for artists from the Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and beyond. They prioritize professional development for artists in the Prairies. They are a contemporary professional theatre company which reflects the ever-evolving communities and audiences they serve with artistry, confidence, and heart.


  • frances-končan
    Playwright Frances Končan
  • Director Renae Morriseau
  • Marie-Angelique Kelsey Wavey
  • cheri-maracle
    Cecilia Cheri Maracle
  • Eugenia Lisa Nasson
  • Thomas Scott Jesse Gervais
  • jonathan-fisher-2
    Louis Riel Jonathan Fisher
  • john-koensgen
    Fight Director John Koensgen
  • Scenic Designer Lauchlin Johnston
  • vanessa-imeson
    Costume Designer Vanessa Imeson
  • mj-dandeneau
    Sound Designer/Composer MJ Dandeneau
  • jeff-harrison
    Lighting Designer Jeff Harrison
  • andrade-candelario-headshot
    Projection Designer Candelario Andrade
  • jackie-mccormick
    Stage Manager Jackie McCormick
  • dylan-tate-howarth
    Assistant Stage Manager Dylan Tate-Howarth


NAC Production Team

Azrieli Studio

Head / Chef 
Stephane Boyer 
Leigh Uttley 
Head Projectionist
Dave Milliard 
Wardrobe Head 
Linda Dufresne 
Backstage Running Crew
Sarah Waghorn
Wig Maintenance 
Normand Couvrette 

Set Construction

Head Carpenter
Dave Strober 
Assistant Carpenter
Chad Desjardins
George Hack
Scenic Painter
Danny McManus 

Prop Shop

Head of Properties Workshop 
Mike Caluori
Natasha Habib 
Will Long 
Kellie McDonald  

Special thanks to:
Jesse Carroll and Kirk Bowman 

Women of the Fur Trade

Frances Končan

Renae Morriseau

Kelsey Wavey

Cheri Maracle

Lisa Nasson

Thomas Scott
Jesse Gervais

Louis Riel
Jonathan Fisher

Fight Director
John Koensgen

Scenic Designer
Lauchlin Johnston

Costume Designer
Vanessa Imeson

Sound Designer/Composer
MJ Dandeneau

Lighting Designer
Jeff Harrison

Projection Designer
Candelario Andrade

Stage Manager
Jackie McCormick

Assistant Stage Manager
Dylan Tate-Howarth

Great Canadian Theatre Company

Box Office Assistant
Billie Nell

Caitlin Hart

Fundraising & Membership Manager
Carolina Gallegos

Company Manager
Celina Hawkins

Ticketing & Administrative Coordinator
Chao Li

Box Office Assistant
Charlotte Stewart-Juby

Access Manager

Assistant Technical Director, Head of Carpentry
Eric Neill

Managing Director
Hugh Neilson

Interim Assistant Technical Director
Jason Beaudry

Julie Bica

Production Manager
Kevin Waghorn

Technical Director
Kyle Ahluwalia

Box Office Manager
Kyle Cameron

Box Office Assistant
Moksha Singh-Sharpe

Marketing & Communications Manager
Natalie Joan MacLellan

Box Office Assistant
Peter Russell

Box Office Assistant
Sara Bruton

Artistic Director
Sarah Kitz

Box Office Assistant
Sarah McKay

Finance & Office Manager
Selam Haile

Head of Props & Head Scenic Painter
Stephanie Dahmer-Brett

Assistant Technical Director (on leave)
Valerie Josephine Trudel

Head of Wardrobe
Vanessa Imeson

Box Office Assistant
Vishesh Abeyratne

Native Earth Performing Arts

Managing Director
Himanshu Sitlani

Artistic Director
Joelle Peters

Venue Coordinator/Company PM
Julia Howman

Sustainability Consultant
Ian Garrett

Sustainability Coordinator
Laura Philipps

NAC Indigenous Theatre Team

Artistic Director
Kevin Loring

Managing Director
Lori Marchand

Michelle Yagi

Associate Producer
Brittany Johnston

Indigenous Cultural Resident
Mairi Brascoupé

Education Coordinator
Kerry Corbiere

Production Manager, Theatre Department
Spike Lyne

Communications Strategist
Ian Hobson

Marketing Strategist
Marie-Pierre Chaumont

Senior Marketing Manager
Bridget Mooney

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees