Looking at Saskatchewan, purely by the numbers, it seems clear that the province is indeed hovering on the brink of something “new”—a new position in Canada, a new way of seeing itself, and the new challenges that this new situation and perspective inevitably bring. According to the Government of Saskatchewan’s own tally, “so far this year, Saskatchewan ranks either first or second in Canada in terms of economic growth, employment growth, low unemployment rate, average weekly earnings, value of international exports, manufacturing sales, retail sales, value of building permits, number of housing starts and investment in both residential and non-residential construction” (Government of Saskatchewan). In addition, the total population of the province grew 2.1 per cent in 2012, the second highest growth rate in the country after Alberta; this rate has been supported by the highest rate of international immigration (CBC News). No doubt, by all traditional indicators, the province that is often thought of as staid and stable is booming.
And yet, even with this very bright economic outlook, the scholarly authors of Saskatchewan: Geographic Perspectives note that “Saskatchewan lies at a crossroads. Faced with global restructuring and a relative decline in its agricultural economy, the province is redirecting efforts away from its traditional economic base to an economy that is primarily urban and service oriented” (Thraves, Lewry, Dale, and Schlichtmann 3). Paralleling this shift of weight from the rural to the urban, the provincial population is also shifting its demographic proportions. Whereas the non-Aboriginal population of Saskatchewan grew 4 per cent between 1996 and 2001, the Aboriginal population expanded 17 per cent (Thraves, Lewry, Dale, and Schlichtmann 459). It is critical to note that the Aboriginal population is not only relatively youthful by comparison with the median age of the province as a whole but is also disproportionately represented among the poor, undereducated, and disadvantaged. Saskatchewan is indeed growing, but this growth is coming in non-traditional [End Page 81] areas and sectors, pushing the province and its population in new directions and presenting entirely new opportunities and obstacles. The numbers tell a gripping story of this “New Saskatchewan” and what it might become. The same question might be posed to the province’s playwrights and theatre-makers: “What stories shall we tell about the changing face of the region?”
Complementing the main section of this issue, Saskatchewan stories are the focus of four reviews offered here. As Bernard Thraves and colleagues point out, Saskatchewan has started to reorient the economic context of agriculture, using investment in knowledge-based industries to increase the productivity of this traditional but threatened sector (458). The development of genetically modified seeds by the biotechnology industry is one such innovation. However, this is not an innovation that is universally embraced. Seeds by Annabel Soutar recites the case brought against farmer Percy Schmeiser by the biotech giant Monsanto. More than simply a case of using genetically modified seeds without permission, the case invites us to ask, “What is life?” and “Can someone ‘own’ it?” In his review, Joel Fishbane examines how the storyteller and the audience are implicated in this issue through particular verbatim techniques employed by the Porte Parole production at the 2012 Festival TransAmériques in Montreal.
Next, Peter Kuling reviews a new collection of essays about drama and theatre practice in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. West-words: Celebrating Western Canadian Theatre and Playwriting, edited by Moira J. Day, presents a snapshot of the current state of theatre in the region, offering, as Kuling notes, a diverse and fascinating picture. In the context of the radical changes predicted for the region, fostered by urbanization and new directions in population growth, it will be fascinating to see what a similar collection will look like in twenty, or even ten, years.
With its heavily resource-based economy, deriving from the production and export of natural resources—wheat, of course, but also oil and gas, potash, coal, and uranium—Saskatchewan defines itself by its relationship to the very land itself. The land as eternal in its vast fecundity is a symbol of the stability of tradition and a generous source of the land...