Prairie Theatre Exchange is sending a social media influencer to the moon.
Frances Koncan’s comedy Space Girl subverted expectations during its run in Winnipeg last year, combining a story about colonization, asteroids and space exploration with a Gen Z tale about the woes of being a social media influencer. Soon, audiences from all over will get a chance to experience the out-of-this-world piece digitally, when its filmed version becomes available to stream later this month.
The play follows Lyra, a 21-year-old who is both the first person born on the moon and the number one social media influencer in the galaxy, as she embarks on an eventful journey to find her way home from Earth and discover who she is along the way. She’s also facing the threat of an asteroid heading towards earth, not to mention the devastation of being bumped down to the number two influencer.
Written by Frances Koncan and directed by Krista Jackson, the space comedy originally ran at Prairie Theatre Exchange last March. The idea to create a filmed version of the production came just a few months before opening night, when the theatre realized they had a budget for digital programming and decided Space Girl — a play brimming with technology and social media references — would be a good fit for a digital platform.
“There are a lot of plot points, a lot of narratives in it, that don’t necessarily follow the expected course, and that’s intentional,” Koncan said of the play in an interview. “I think there’s a certain hunger for that kind of story that often doesn’t get produced because it is a risk, and it’s a scary thing to deviate from what’s expected.”
Koncan, an Anishinaabe and Slovene playwright from Couchiching First Nation who uses she/they pronouns, began writing Space Girl in 2021 at the height of the pandemic. Despite the shuttered state of theatre at the time, they were lucky enough to receive a commission from Prairie Theatre Exchange to create a new play.
Koncan drew inspiration for the story from both The Wizard of Oz, and headlines about tone-deaf billionaires traveling to space.
“I just thought that was so ridiculous when here on earth, there were so many things that could use that kind of financial support,” Koncan said.
Space Girl explores the concept of social media and the power it holds — a topic deeply important to Koncan. As a self-described social media enthusiast, and someone who particularly enjoys the way platforms encourage creativity and allow for activism, she hopes the play serves as a reminder of the responsibility we all have to be mindful about what we post.
“I think we forget the power that we can have through what we’re sharing, through who our audience is,” they said. “Space Girl is really just a reminder that when we have people that are watching us, we have a responsibility to think about what we’re saying and do it responsibly.”
Perhaps a more subtle — but equally important — theme in the play is the impact of colonization here on Earth and the potential implications of repeating the same mistakes in space. That’s a question Koncan hopes “simmers underneath all the fun” as audiences sit with their thoughts post-show.
And yet, despite the serious nature of some of the themes, the decision to write a comedy, rather than a drama, was less of a choice for Koncan and more of a natural instinct. Over time, despite self-doubt, they’ve come to believe that comedy can be just as, if not more, effective at communicating important themes, as the genre can open audiences up to ideas in ways they may not expect.
“I’ve often felt like to be taken seriously, you have to write really serious shows,” she said, “but I’m sort of leaning into comedy and humour as a way to explore those ideas that are really serious.”
Creating art geared at young people, from her own generation, has always mattered to Koncan — and the way this play depicts Millennials’ and Gen Z’s real life experiences on stage is a major point of pride for the writer.
While this marks the first work of Koncan’s to be filmed for digital viewing, they say they care deeply about accessibility in theatre, and they’re excited about the potential for different kinds of audiences to get to experience it. They’re particularly eager to see how it translates on screen given its exploration of technology and the role screens play in our lives.
“The play itself explores the idea of screens a lot – not just film screens and movie screens, but also phone screens and all of these ways we connect with each other when we can’t connect in person,” Koncan said. “I have a hunch that that will translate really interestingly into a filmed version.”
Space Girl will be available for audiences to purchase and stream digitally from January 17 — 28. Tickets are available here.