Vancouver Fringe 2019: The Legend of White Woman Creek

Playing a ghost, Katie Hartman pours it out in The Legend of White Woman Creek.

Oddly, I found The Legend of White Woman Creek both hypnotic and boring.

Katie Hartman, who wrote the piece with partner Nick Ryan, who’s running the lights, performs solo. Starting out as an academic who specializes in the paranormal, she summons the ghost of nineteenth-century American settler Anna Morgan Faber. Then Anna proceeds to deliver a folk music concert. Fortunately, the academic has thought to bring a guitar and a microphone.

Through a 13-song cycle, Anna tells us how she married a taciturn German immigrant named Heinrich Faber and lived with him for two miserable years in a sod hut in Kansas. When Heinrich and his pals raid a Cheyenne camp for no reason, the Cheyenne retaliate by kidnapping Anna — much to her eventual delight.

She falls in love with a noble Cheyenne chief. (Does he have to be so singularly noble and a chief? Is this a form of settler porn?)

I’ve been flippant about the framing, but there’s an undeniable integrity in Hartman’s performance. She sings as if she herself is a medium — in a voice that feels like wood to me because of its naturalness and strength — and she often channels wrenching emotions.

The melodies evoke prairie spaciousness and there’s harsh beauty in some of the lyrics. I’m thinking about a song, for instance, in which a pair of crows fly over a battlefield and see the human remains as an unexpected boon.

Anna’s narrative and its characters don’t acquire much nuance, however. And the songs all feel similarly melancholy and, for the most part, slow.

There’s a lot of talent here but, in this song cycle, it has not found its perfect vessel.

At the Revue Stage. Remaining performances on September 12 (6:45 p.m.), 14 (5:45 p.m.), and 15 (1:45 p.m.)


About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.


  1. David Secunda says:

    Having only days before participated in a sweat lodge on a reserve I was in a mind set for “The Legend…” This play was a meditation. I was floating in the sound and imagery of the piece and at times moved to tears. I’ve seen fifteen plays so far at this fringe, mostly rewarding pieces, but “The Legend of White Woman Creek” is one I’d like to experience again.

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