About this project
Hello! I am asking for financial support to be part of the Arctic Circle 2015 Tall Ship Expedition this June as a playwright in Norway. I would like to experience a taste of the journey that Inuit woman guide, Tookoolito, once took in the late 1800's. It would be invaluable to integrate visceral research with physical experience. To be inspired by similar chilled waters she once sailed. I would like to finish writing her story involving this perspective. I plan on capturing the emotion of the moment with video logs, journalling, pictures, drawings, recordings. I intend to finalize a draft of this play a month after the expedition has ended.
Tookoolito, also known as Hannah, was born in 1838 near Cumberland Sound in the Northwest Territories. She began learning English while guiding for whaling captain, Thomas Bolby. He brought her and her husband, Eiberbing, to London where they met Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. During those months spent in England, Tookoolito learned to speak fluent, lilted English. When they returned to Baffin Island she maintained the ritual of tea and other influences she enjoyed.
Tookoolito met Connecticut Native, Charles Francis Hall in 1860. They met through Captain Budington on the George Henry anchored near Baffin Island. Hall had wanted to meet an Inuit guide that could help locate Sir John Franklin's remains and Budington knew Tookoolito from previous visits. Tookoolito and Hall did three expeditions together that lasted over a decade. A deeply connected friendship formed between them and both greatly influenced each other’s lives. Hall learned to speak Inuktitut and live off the tundra while Tookoolito and her husband purchased a home in Groton, Connecticut. However, this friendship was not without its conflicts. Though Tookoolito had adopted elements of English culture into her traditional lifestyle, she would not convert to Christianity whereas Hall was a devout Christian. He wrote about this in his journals but respected her for her intelligence and quick adaptability.
On what would be their final and most well known expedition, Hall was killed by a member of his crew while captaining the ship, Polaris, to the North Pole. Tookoolito, Eiberbing, another Inuit couple, and half the crew abandoned the ship and were left to float on an iceberg for six months. During that time, they drifted passed their community but stayed with the crew and kept them fed on harpooned seal, walrus and polar bear. I believe they did this out of allegiance for their friend.
Hall wrote extensively about Tookoolito but very little has been written about her since. I have actively researched Tookoolito and interviewed local historians, writers and other Inuit. Her story remains untold from the northern perspective. She has captivated me for three years now.
The best words are words that capture movement and can tell a good story. With your support, a virtually unknown, national icon of our rich North American history can finally be recognized. Her contribution to our country represents a positive relationship of first contact, inclusion and exploration. The similarities we face today are as relevant as they were back then. As a modern day Inuk woman writing about a traditional Inuk woman there is a perspective there that is unique from any other. The specificity of being on a tall ship gives integrity to the story. So not just by both being Inuit but by both sharing a real environment. That connectedness creates legacy.
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Risks and challenges
After the expedition is completed I plan on spending about a month after writing and completing a draft of the play about Tookoolito. If something were to come up where that isn't able to happen. Say I get a contract and need to focus my attention on something else. It would be difficult to keep reliving those moments experienced being on the ship and reflecting on Tookoolito's journey. It would take much discipline but I would have to create a writing space where that experience doesn't become forgotten. It would mean putting aside time each day to write. Keeping journals with me to recall moments while I was on board and reviewing them. Mostly using my time wisely when multi-tasking. As a full-time artist however, this is something I have skillfully learned to do.
After the draft is complete, I will source out funds to workshop with a cast and dramaturg to bring the script to a place where the quality of writing is rich and concise. From there Akpik Theatre will source out opportunities to produce and/or co-produce with other companies.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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