Shield Maiden Play came from feminism, activism, Vikings, and the #MeToo Movement. This one woman play explores the framework of today’s #MeToo Movement laid on top of the ancient woman warrior archetype.
The catalyst for Shield Maiden play is a 2018 article about DNA testing done on a corpse found in a Viking burial site in the 1800’s. The testing revealed that the “ideal warrior grave” was occupied by a female. Not a male. This challenges every discovery of every warrior burial site world wide. What happens if scientists do more DNA studies on remains assumed to be male?
What does it mean when feminism and activism enter into the scientific study of Vikings? “Hedenstierna-Jonson et al. just opened up a whole line of research questions that remind us how complex, rich, and fascinating human societies actually are when we study them for who they were and not to reflect who we think we are.” Holly Norton, The Guardian
These researchers rolled feminism, activism, Vikings and #MeToo up in one tasty, spicy, mind-blowing, intellectual taco.
Women serve in active combat, fight for human rights and raise and protect their children. When strong women do step forward, there is STILL an immediate attempt to silence them, humiliate them, denigrate them and ultimately, erase them.
Recent examples of women warriors include Jody Wison-Raybould and Jane Philpot in Canada and “The Squad” in the US as well as the most amazing young female warrior, Greta Thunberg . These women are examples of warrior spirit. Furthermore, they are in actual battle because their lives are threatened for speaking out against status quo assumptions.
Maybe it’s difficult for you to imagine a Viking woman warrior existed. But feminism and activism will continue to challenge scientific assumptions. Why not take a page out of the Birka DNA study and assume that all people are capable of amazing things.
Warriors aren’t nice. In my solo show, Shield Maiden, our main character Ingrid states emphatically “Nice was never in my job description.” Ingrid is an elite warrior, a leader. However, she feels a behavioural expectation encroaching into her professional domain that doesn’t square up with the definition of who she is and what she’s expected to accomplish at her job.
Rapinoe is an elite athlete trained to strategize and win. But not just win. She and her teammates have been trained to dominate. That’s what elite sports is about. Winning. All that money, time, energy, effort does not go into an individual and ultimately a team without expectation of winning. It’s not just a feel-good exercise at this level.
The terms the sporting world uses to describe sporting events are the same terms used to describe war. “Slayed”, “Murdered”, “Destroyed” “Devestated”. This is not accidental.
These athletes are warriors.
The analogy of battle on the playing field is a literal analogy. High level athletes are warriors. And warriors aren’t nice. Warriors are ruthless, focused, triumphant in their victories. Rapinoe is ruthless in her job. That is what makes her and her team successful.
When the #USWMNT obliterated (another war word) Team Thailand 13-0, they were called out for reveling in their victory. These women sent a scorchingly clear message that this US Women’s team showed up at the World Cup to dominate. Team USA stomped their opponent leaving absolutely no doubt what they planned to do to the next teams they played. Their strategy was brilliant and clear. This was NOT nice. And they took a lot of heat for it. The Washington Post even wrote and article with the headline ” US Women’s Team Soccer Team Stirs Up Debate About Celebrating Too Much”
The Washington Post article states that good sportsmanship should be the goal for all athletes male or female and that the US Women’s Team modelled bad behaviour for young athletes. This was my initial response when I first heard about the game and in fact, my husband and I even used it as a teaching moment for our daughter. I think we said something to the effect of “You can succeed, but do it with grace and humility.” I do believe this. Furthermore, I want my daughter growing up with this awareness.
But when I dig a lot deeper, I’m completely turned on by watching these women win without apology, without taking our feelings into consideration. I don’t actually want Rapinoe to be nice.
Women warriors get to be brutal and ruthless. It’s their job.
Who Megan Ranpinoe is on the field is what she’s getting paid for. She is hired to lead her team to victory. As long as she doesn’t break any rules (which she doesn’t) she gets to be ruthless and unapologetic. She gets to rub her opponents into the field and take a beautiful and perfect victory lap. I don’t know what kind of a person Rapinoe is in her personal life but in the public eye she’s an advocate for women and the LGBT community. She fights for pay equity for women athletes. Rapinoe uses her voice as a public figure to stand up to politics and policies that directly contradict what she’s fighting for. On the field, she’s ruthless.
When men are ruthless and brutal at their jobs they are classified as successful. Full stop. They are given a wide berth on their behaviour because they get the job done. They give their investors high returns. Their company sells the most widgets.
In this World Cup, I see many male sports commentators praise some of the women soccer players for “playing nice” after rough play (intended or otherwise). Specifically, women get praised for apologizing. I agree with the WaPo article in that just because men have behaved ruthlessly for centuries doesn’t mean it’s right. I’m not even getting into the historical proof of this ruthlessness.
I am teaching my daughter grace and humility. It’s a harder lesson for me personally to teach her that she doesn’t have to apologize for who she is. That lesson was burned into me and most women I know. I am so grateful we get to see women warriors out there in their full power without apology.
Thank you Megan Rapinoe and all the women before you using your breath and bodies to move us a little closer to the truth.
Shield Maiden Play shines a light on the archetype of the woman warrior. What happens when women step beyond nice and polite? How do you feel when you witness one woman’s vulnerability, sexuality and rage all in one conversation? What does unapologetic female power look like? And…
What’s it like to see a woman warrior wield deadly weapons?
I’m supported by a team of amazing warrior sisters including director Nicolle Nattrass and production manager, Sandy Cumberland. I worked with my friend EJ Hurst, a blackbelt in the Kyokushin Karate tradition. She helped me ground down into some deeper warrior energy. Her energy is with me every time I’m on stage. When I rehearse, when I go over lines, when I listen to music that inspires my inner warrior – I feel that strong archetypal influence.
However, some of the physicality of being a warrior is really tough for me to access. I’m specifically talking about weapons and how to use them. Sandy found a hot shot to help me dive in deeper. He is Choreographer R Robinson Wilson. Not only is he a highly respected Fight Guy, he is super well versed in all things Norse. We have our first fight rehearsal session tomorrow. I am so excited to see how we can further develop the visual strength of the Viking warrior woman. We have discussed the possibility that my character, Ingrid, needs a sword, a shield AND an axe. Keep your eyes open for posts of my practice injuries. They could be phenomenal.
Most of us will never need to be proficient with axes and swords and other forms of weaponry. But I want you to come away from my production feeling like if you ever needed to…you could. That’s the power of art. Archetypes work this way too. They tap into the common unconscious experience and reflect it back.
The archetype of the woman warrior is needed now more than ever.
This is the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement, the #TimesUp movement. The line has been crossed for the Fourth Wave of Feminism. As a result, don’t expect the mother/nurturer to show up and explain things gently and hand you cookies while she’s doing it. Nope. Warrior Woman shows up solid and unyielding to your incorrect assumptions about her. And she is ready to dissolve the arena where all the injustice has occurred.
So I’m working very hard to get this play out in front of people. Because sometimes, unless you see and hear a strong woman speak her truth and not back away from other people’s bullshit, you don’t realize how much you’ve been groomed to stay quiet and well behaved. Above all, you don’t realize how strong the woman warrior is in YOU.
Contact us for information regarding our modern day woman warrior post show panel discussions.
United Solo This is the largest juried solo show in the world and happens off Broadway in the famed Theatre District of New York City.
Want to help get Team Shield Maiden to NYC this fall? Email us and donate air miles and/or funds. Have friends and family in the NYC area who love kick ass feminist theatre? Spread the word about our show at USolo.
While writing “Shield Maiden” in 2017, the #Metoo Movement was at full tilt boogie. I had a moment where I thought that women warriors were irrelevant. That moment was incredibly short lived. Yours truly was temporarily deluded by hope and denial. The truth is that women warriors are needed now more than ever.
Marginalized people have gained so much in the last few decades. But the current back-sliding of civil rights is terrifying. Our most vulnerable people are at risk. There are amazing white men in power attempting to stave off this tsunami of degradation. Even more powerful are the heroes from the marginalized population. These are the voices that carry. These are the voices we need to hear. “Shield Maiden” represents my very humble attempt to add volume to the uproar.
We need a howling chorus to affect change. Post show panel discussions take the theatrical experience of “Shield Maiden” and demonstrate the power and possibility of modern day women warriors. The panel discusses topics from the play. We cover sexism, gender bias, sexual freedom, trauma and more.
The women warriors on our panels are real life super She-roes. Black belts, politicians, therapists, business leaders, researchers, and artists to name a few. Sheila Norgate is a visual artist and performance artist who boldly states that “the risk of flying without a net finally became smaller than the risk of never having flown at all.”. She inspires so many women to find creative expression despite their fears. Sheila Malcomson is the MLA for the Nanaimo, BC riding. As a politician, Sheila works hard for women, indigenous people and environmental rights. As a human, she encourages women to take positions of leadership.
It’s important to me as the play’s creator that the message NOT end when the curtain drops. Interested in bringing “Shield Maiden” to a theatre near you? Inspired to rally warrior women for a post show panel discussion? Please contact us for more information.