Back at the 2006 Fringe, a fresh script first surfaced to ruminate on our complicated relationship with water. It is, after all, the stuff of both life and life-demolishing floods, of nourishment and danger. But in the time since that first run of The Frequency of Water, H2O’s importance to the world has grown only gained more awareness, more traction in more facets: it anchors corporate questions of ownership, political ones of territory, and even pulls focus to its own potency to disrupt our lives through shifting weather patterns.
“When we were doing it the first time,” begins Maralyn Ryan, who directed then and does so again now. “There was a huge conference in Switzerland, and corporations were coming together to debate who owned the water. Who owned it. That was happening at that time, and this time, water’s been in the picture almost every day.”
Now, seven years on, Frequency returns. The script’s complexities run as deep as its subject matter: a story that ostensibly begins with a professor defending his thesis—that water itself has memory—delves into recollections of his youth spent with a grandmother hip to dowsing (locating underground water sources through decidedly non-scientific means) as well as a mysterious, vanishing girl. In those dual storylines, Frequency probes not only the complexities of water and memory, but certain links between science and the more unexplainable.
From the outside, certainly, it seems an involved mix of ideas to balance in a production. But Ryan notes a certain simplicity to its flow, that seemed to resonate with the audiences that saw it.
“After the run of that show,” she says. “I realized that the people that saw it were deeply affected by it, because it somehow took science and—I don’t want to say religion, but science and spirituality, and they came [so] close together that you could actually feel the effect of that.”
“I think does make us look at science and our relationship to water, to each other, and understand [that] the mysteries of water are the mysteries we have about ourselves,” she adds.
After the Sterling win, Ryan and playwright Carol Murray-Gilchrist took the script to the Banff Centre, as part of a Short-Term Artists In Residence Program. There, “the play began to reveal itself in a deeper way,” Ryan recalls. But returning it to the stage proved a long time coming.
“It was something that Carol and I talked about every year,” Ryan recalls. “Every year. And then I got to the point where, I have to look at myself: I’m a senior artist. After you cross the age of 65, you go, well, some people live to be 80, but you may not. So, it’s something you should seriously think about: if you want to do it, then you should do it. And that’s why things came together so quickly. We seized on an opportunity.”
Until Mon, Jan 26 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Maralyn Ryan
ATB Financial Arts Barns, $18 – $20