Yk gets sudsy
Local soap opera revived

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Jun 02/00) - Ten years ago a theatrical phenomenon hit Yellowknife like a pie in the face.

It was called Land of the Midnight Sin, and it travelled from venue to venue each week -- The Office Lounge, Sam's Monkey Tree and Millie's Hoist Room, among other locations.

Offering a serial portrait of the wild shenanigans of Yellowknifers, it became all the rage.

Director Christopher Foreman started the largely improvisational escapade.

"I had watched soaps off and on since college and they had always made me laugh in spite of myself -- that stilted style of delivery," explains Foreman, who has opted to remain in Yellowknife for one more year of theatre productions.

"Sin was a coming together of basic acting conventions of soap opera and then the satirical look at Yellowknife. This is already a fairly wonky place in a lot of ways; there's this wonky sensibility that's pervasive."

The cast, which grew from an initial 10 actors to more than 30, improvised around a loose script in which newsworthy tidbits and Yk lore wound its way through increasingly complex plotlines. This year, Foreman hopes to recreate not only the soap itself, but also the co-operative fashion in which the whole project evolved.

"The most fun was that the original group all brought in story ideas themselves. Strange stuff would happen."

Foreman recalls when what was believed to be a hand was found behind the Gold Range.

"One whole episode made constant references, 'Lend me a hand' or 'Give me a hand.' They thought it was a petrified hand and there was this big mystery about how it got there. It turned out it was a caribou hoof or something like that. So it was constantly stuff like that, that was in the news."

Foreman also remembers when a bear tranquilizer went missing from Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.

"Immediately we worked this in. TomTom ended up trying to knock off talk show host Girly Snipes with the tranquilizer. So it was constant local humour."

The home-grown soap played to hordes of fans.

"It took on a life of its own. At one time, the way people might have stood in line talking about what's happening on Dynasty or Dallas, they'd be saying, 'What's happening on Sin this week. I missed it.'"

Every Friday at midnight, the two-hour show would begin, and nobody could guess the bizarre turns the tale might take. Sometimes, real-life people would satirize themselves on stage. Then mayor Pat McMahon was one such, appearing on the Girly Snipes talk show.

"We developed two or three sketches with her, and she was great fun. On the other hand, Mike Ballantyne (a former GNWT minister) declined. So we called a local actor named John Brophy, who was hilarious as Mike Ballantyne, with all of his mannerisms."

So popular, in fact, was this Yellowknife send-up, that news of it spread across the nation. Foreman appeared on CBC's Midday with Valerie Pringle, where they also included a clip of Land of the Midnight Sin.

Foreman will hold a meeting for anyone interested in participating in any capacity. He emphasizes that those interested can commit for one show only, if time is an issue.

The meeting is at the Yellowknife Public Library, Meeting Room A, at 7 p.m., June 6.