Selkie is a work originally performed for LOOM, a show deconstructing female myths and voice. In Celtic myth Selkies are often women who possess the ability to shapeshift between seal and human form.

The most common selkie story goes like this:

A selkie in human form has her seal-skin stolen by a human man. Why is she on the beach? I’ll leave that up to you. Finding her naked, washed up on the sand like so much kelp, by claiming her skin and hiding it, the man compels her to become his wife. Kept in the prison of a home she feels the tide in her bones, ebbing and pulling day by day. Sometimes she thinks she can hear her kin calling to her. She stands on the beach under the moon, digging her toes into the sand, but the sea will drown her now, in this body.

Sometimes, often in this story, she will bear the man children. She will love them as much as she can, even if they don’t have a seal-skin of their own. In some version of the story one of her children will find the skin, providing her with the keys to her prison, cutting a hole in themselves without even knowing it.

She puts on her skin. She slips into the sea. Her children never see her again.

Selkie is the first act of this story, told with fabric, gravity, and time. This piece is rooted in memory and longing, in the rhythm of the surf, and the slip of kelp and salt on skin.

Selkie was first performed in Brattleboro, VT in 2019. 

Photos by Laurie Kigner