The artists & history of Breathe by Sienna Holden

May 2, 2024

This new musical explores recovery from opioid addiction within a family and asks, does one moment define a life?

We're offering a free workshop reading of Breathe, with the full script and songs presented by professional actors – songs that promise to linger in the audience’s ears and a story that tugs at their hearts – on the evening of Friday, May 31st at The Refinery in Saskatoon, with FREE admission.

The main character Sarah is portrayed by local actor and musician Amanda Trapp (a playwright, performer and director in We Treaty People, also recently played Aquata in Persephone Theatre’s The Little Mermaid). Sarah is a recovering addict grappling with her past as she strives to walk a path towards healing, to reconnect with her estranged teenage daughter Molly, portrayed by Alyssa Billingsley (Flotsam in The Little Mermaid), and with her own mother Deborah, played by Liz Whitbread (Arista in The Little Mermaid), who has been parenting Molly.

Sarah’s brother-in-law Todd is played by Tim Bratton (My Little Plastic Jesus, We Are the Body) and her N.A. sponsor Sean is portrayed by Kevin Moxley – this pair recently appeared as Bingsley and Darcy, respectively, in Persephone’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley

The workshop reading is directed by Yvette Nolan, one of Canada’s most influential artistic directors and playwrights (recipient of the 10th annual Gina Wilkinson Prize in 2021), who is also the dramaturg for Breathe since 2020, when Burnt Thicket began supporting its development. Nolan collaborated in We Treaty People as a playwright, director, and guided our producers in creating the entire series as its production dramaturg. Nolan's gripping new play The Unplugging will receive its Saskatchewan premiere by Burnt Thicket, Feb. 27 - Mar. 6, 2025, as part of Live Five Theatre's season.

Luke Ertman is musical director, music producer and arranger, a multi-talented musician and composer who has directed or scored over 50 theatre productions and films, had his music played on national radio (as the co-leader of the alternative rock band Fools Tongue). Ertman also created the sound design and composed the score for She Has a Name.

Award-winning concert pianist Sofia Mycyk, also a sessional lecturer in USask’s department of music, will accompany the actors in the workshop reading, along with Nathan Coppens’ support as rehearsal accompanist. Our artistic director Stephen Waldschmidt will provide stage management.

“Loving someone with an addiction is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced,” says emerging playwright and composer Sienna Holden, “because it shaped my emotional understanding of family and the conditions that come with love. Breathe was born out of a cathartic need to express the wealth of emotions that I felt. Before this, I had never written anything. But one day lyrics and a melody came into my head and I felt compelled to get them on paper.” Holden performed an early draft of Breathe at ADFA’s One-Act Festival and was awarded Outstanding Actress of the festival for her portrayal of Sarah. Sage Theatre then selected it for a workshop production in their IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists, with writing mentorship from dramaturg Shari Wattling. 

Holden was later selected for Alberta Playwright’s Network’s Emerging Artist's Mentorship Program, in which she expanded Breathe to two acts with dramaturg Gordon Pengilly. In 2020, we began supporting the musical’s development, though Holden has been involved with the company since 2009 when she performed key roles in Burnt Thicket’s world premiere of She Has a Name and its subsequent national tour to thirteen cities from Halifax to Victoria. Last fall, Calgary’s Common Ground Festival selected Breathe for a staged reading which included new songs composed by Holden and arranged by Ertman.

This workshop marks the musical’s first public reading in Saskatchewan, and the first with Holden’s fully rendered script and full score of newly arranged songs. Our development support for the musical has been made possible thanks to a grant from SK Arts and sponsorship from Dakota Dunes Community Development Corporation, along with a host of funding partners and donors. 

Breathe - the new musical by Sienna Holden

Workshop Reading
Friday, May 31, 2024, 7:30pm
(FREE admission)
at The Refinery in Saskatoon (609 Dufferin Ave)
followed by a brief talk back with the artists

Audience Advisory: Recommended for ages 14+. Contains mature themes, including coarse language, talk and depiction of substance abuse and self-harm.

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