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Makings of a Voice explores matriarchal lineage

The song cycle is a co-presentation between Arden Theatre and SkirtsAfire
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Singer-songwriter Dana Wylie performs Makings of a Voice, a song cycle about matriarchal lineage, on Oct. 14 to 17 at the Arden Theatre. SUPPLIED

Performance date change
The performance dates for Makings of a Voice at the Arden Theatre have changed since this story was published in The Gazette's print edition. The new dates are Oct. 15 and Oct. 16.

One of the first theatrical song cycles performed at the Arden Theatre in 2012 was American singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s creation Hadestown: A Folk Opera. 

It was a complex project showcasing an original songbook. Based on the ancient mythological Greek love story between Orpheus and Eurydice, it told the tale of a man who follows his wife to the underworld after she dies. Featuring a rich cast, larger-than-life characters, heart-wrenching songs and a meaty story line, it detailed the complexities of individuals’ lives through the choices they make. 

Edmonton folk-roots singer-songwriter Dana Wylie has also composed a theatrical song cycle. Makings of a Voice, making its live world premiere on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 at the Arden Theatre, lacks the drama associated with a pantheon of immortal gods. But the song cycle is no less passionate as it explores the universal theme of discovering identity through different generations. 

As one of Wylie’s most personal projects, the vision shifts between past and present as it flashes back and flashes forward, peeling back the knotty relationships between mothers and daughters. 

“It’s thematically about motherhood and daughterhood, and the matriarchal lineage, and honouring the feminine in a patriarchal system,” said Wylie. She portrays herself as a woman searching for connections. 

The non-linear storytelling starts when the main character is seven months pregnant with her second child. 

“She faces an existential crisis. She has feelings of disconnection. She feels unworthy of the love growing inside. She feels strongly that she’s lost herself and needs to find herself before giving birth,” Wylie said. 

“She finds herself through the maternal lineage. It’s just that the journey is not always what we think it will look like. In the end, she realizes what she has is herself, and everything she looks for is inside. In terms of connections, it is all there.” 

Originally, Makings of a Voice was slated to open as a live theatre production at SkirtsAfire in March 2021. However, with high COVID cases sweeping across the region, live productions became moving targets. As one of the casualties, the song cycle ran as a solo 75-minute online virtual performance. 

Finally returning to the live performance format it was intended, Wylie tells her story backed by an all-woman band — Kirsten Elliott (flute), Christine Hanson (cello) and Billie Zizi (guitar). 

Vanessa Sabourin, a former St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumna and producer at Azimuth Theatre, was tapped to direct both versions of the production. Wylie first met Sabourin as a student at MacEwan College’s two-year music program. Through that initial connection and ongoing mutual respect for each other’s increasingly sophisticated body of work, they paired up. 

Following the completion of the online production in March, Sabourin said, “Dana is such a beautiful singer and musician. Her songs are soothing and empowering. Her story is a quest for identity and the transitions which we all experience through the pandemic. There's a wide range of motherhood and a lot of women are feeling isolated at the moment. In a way this is a love letter from Dana and me.” 

The Arden Theatre is at 5 St. Anne Place. Tickets are $40 and are available at 

The Arden follows the restrictions exemption program. Masks are required indoors and all patrons older than 12 years are required to show either proof of vaccination, proof of a privately-paid rapid test, or documents for a medical exemption. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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