Playwright Annie Valentina’s Ballad of the Motherland, set to open at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre on March 21, was already inspired by actual events. But as Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year, Valentina used the opportunity to rewrite and tweak her story to focus more on current events.
It was a rare opportunity for a theatre to program a play that is so very relevant and reflective of the current world situation, and I did not want to miss that chance. – Jeremy Webb
“It was coincidentally, as Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, that Annie Valentina’s new play, Ballad of the Motherland, was having a workshop week, culminating in a reading,” says Neptune Theatre’s artistic director Jeremy Webb in a media release.
Aware of what was happening in Ukraine and familiar with Valentina’s work, Webb invited himself to the play reading.
“I texted Annie immediately after the reading and declared my hope of seeing her play premiere at Neptune the following year,” he says. “It was a rare opportunity for a theatre to program a play that is so very relevant and reflective of the current world situation, and I did not want to miss that chance.”
Ballad of the Motherland is the story of a Canadian blogger kidnapped in the Donbas’s militarized zone, taken captive by a Russian separatist who believes she is a Western operative.
Despite its premise, Valentina didn’t initially set out to write a social commentary on the region’s political climate when she started writing the play nine years ago, just as violence first erupted in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
“I started in 2014, then took a break and picked it up again during the pandemic when I had some more time,” says Valentina. “They say sometimes that playwrights are inherently trying to explore the same dramatic question — that’s kind of underneath all their writing. And for me, I think that question is, what does it mean to be part of a culture? What is home?”
Neptune Theatre presents Ballad of the Motherland on its Fountain Hall stage (1593 Argyle St, Halifax) from March 21 through April 2. Visit neptunetheatre.com for tickets and information.