- Canadian Ideas
- About the consultation
My work as playwright has always centered around a single character in an essential moment of transformation. As a performer, I took my work on the road in Canada, the US and internationally. After my first few years on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, I came to realize there were 'old timers' who had been pioneers to the area who wanted to tell the stories of their lives. I invited them to tell their life stories to me and I agreed to edit them and prepare them for ultimate telling in a theatrical setting. What happened became so much more than anyone had expected. The show was called 'The Life We Lived' and it recreated life on the Sunshine Coast before there were roads; when the only transportation was via skiffs, boats, canoes, Union Steamships. Where groceries were carted from the dock via wheelbarrows, where school was a one room shack, where babies were born at home. Where the fish literally jumped out of the water, where people lived on float homes and rafts, surrounded by the sounds of the loon, the eagle. An entire world surrounded by wet weather, worked by loggers, fishermen, missioners, doctors, nurses, shop keepers, teachers.
Each story brought us into a different life lived.
"I was nine years old in 1918 when the armistice was declared, people were all so happy. And then there was the flu epidemic. If I didn't get a book, it wasn't Christmas." Ethel McNutt
In 1929, my father got a quarter section on Read Island, 160 acres! You had to do $1,500 worth of improvements, or clear five acres, and when you had that done, you got your Crown grant, you got your own piece of land. It was the beginning of the Depression." Cynthia Culbard Jones
"My Grandmother, Mary Ann Rouse, was born in the lighthouse on Merry Island. When she was 13 or 14, her parents had her married for a canoe and a sack of flour." Louella Duncan
"There we were. If anything brought us together, it was grief. I counted eleven boys from my Grade One picture who were killed in the war. And that was just my Grade One picture." Rona Le Duc
I performed these stories at the Rockwood Pavilion with the women present whose stories I told. I felt so connected to these women whose humorous, tragic, ordinary, amazing stories I was telling. Each story was told in character and labeled by the name of the woman whose story was being told. After the performance, each woman stood to be acknowledged as I introduced them to the sold out audience attending. The women knew each other, but some hadn't spoken to each other for years. There was something about hearing their story and witnessing others' stories, that gave them permission to say hello, after passing each other for years in silence. Friendships resumed. Most of these women have now passed on. But I still have their stories, I remember their names, Pixie Daly, Roberta McKibben, Violet Winegarden, Maribel Holland, Cloe Day, Marilyn Wigard. I can still feel that essential connection that we made -- through the telling of their life stories. Now it's time for me to tell mine.