Esther Koepnick | 2023 Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency provides professional Manitoba artists with time to focus on their work in the beautiful natural setting of Riding Mountain National Park.

The next artist-in-residence for 2023 is Esther Koepnick, a Winnipeg-based singer/songwriter and theatre artist. Ahead of her time in the historic Deep Bay Cabin, Esther answered a few of our questions about her art, her connection to the park, and how she’ll be spending her residency.

MAC: Tell us a little about yourself as an artist and your practice.

Esther Koepnick: I am an actor/singer/songwriter/playwright. I have my acting degree from Rosebud School of the Arts, a mentorship-based theatre school in rural Alberta. I love theatre because it brings people together in a unique way. In a world increasingly based on screens, theatre allows us to share an experience that can never be reproduced in exactly the same way. Acting gives me a chance to expand my understanding of the world and the people who live in it. I am excited by reimagining timeless stories.

Tell us about your project—what will you be working on in the Deep Bay Cabin? 

While at Riding Mountain National Park I will be writing and recording a concept album for a musical I’m creating called Lucy Lost in Cancerland. The show is based on my experience as a young adult cancer survivor. It explores the relationship between a mother and daughter navigating the daughter’s cancer diagnosis. On top of everything, Lucy finds herself in Cancerland: a weird, wild, and whimsical world where her illness is personified as an abusive boyfriend.

This idea has been steeping for a few years, but this is the first draft where I’m bringing together different elements for the first time. Previous versions of the show did not include music, but it was always my intention to turn it into a musical. I hope audiences will connect to the play’s universal themes of loss, loneliness, and ultimately, hope.

What is your relationship with the park?

I have never been to Riding Mountain National Park, but I have grown up around lakes and the ocean so I’m excited for morning dips in Clear Lake!

How do you hope the park will influence or inspire your project or practice?

The central events of the story happen in a cabin in the wilderness. There are times when the wilderness itself is a character, so I’m looking forward to being inspired by my surroundings. I hope that the sights and sounds of the outdoors will find their way into the music.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers and the Riding Mountain National Park community?

A fun fact about me is that during the pandemic I lived with my husband in a semi-off-grid yurt!

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency is offered in partnership by the Manitoba Arts Council and Riding Mountain National Park.

Interested in the staying in the Deep Bay cabin? Find out how to apply to the Riding Mountain Artists Residency through the Learn – Residencies grant stream. Apply by January 15, 2024 for a residency in the summer of 2024.