Iron River: Mosaic mystery and small town gossip
By Kate Butler
Published April 10, 2018
Small town living: it’s something that all of us living in Haliburton County know about – or do we? This spring, Highlands Little Theatre will be presenting a play that represents the joys, complexities and mysteries of living in a small town in The Iron River Gas Bar and Cabins, by local playwright and director, Jim Love. Iron River is a hamlet filled with eccentric characters, many of whom have wonderful talents showcased every week at the local open stage.
Though some of the aspects to Iron River and some of its inhabitants may seem familiar, according to the playwright, “Iron River is fictional. It sounds like it should exist, but it doesn’t. It’s that place that was there until the highway bypassed it ... You look at it and you see something that is still hanging on, somehow. The town might be reduced to a few old buildings, some rusting signs and not much more, but the spirit is alive. This story plays out time and again.” And it’s perhaps for this reason that it seems so tangible to us all. Iron River is a place filled with amazing live music, beautiful poetry, some heartaches and lots of laughter. The residents of Iron River have been together so long that they can anticipate each other’s movements ... and their jokes!
The characters who gather around the gas bar and cabins range from a wise-cracking mechanic to a retired college professor and a reclusive songwriter to the local gossip. The entire operation is “overseen” by Eddie Shinor, the owner of the establishment, though he’s seldom around and when he is, he can be a bit unpredictable.
David Mills, who portrays the character, commented, “I think you’ll find ‘Eddies’ everywhere. The loss of his wife was profound and he uses a lot of bravado to hide his hurt and, yes, his anger at the unfairness of life.” In the show, Eddie’s life and, in fact, the whole of Iron River, is thrown topsy-turvy one day by the arrival of a young woman named Suzie, played by yours truly. Suzie is, by all accounts, a bit of a mystery. No one in Iron River can figure out what has brought her there, whether she’s running from the past or running towards the future. That said, she’s someone who always lands on her feet and always finds a reason to smile, no matter what secrets she carries with her. Now, I, of course, know Suzie’s secrets, but I can’t reveal them here – you’ll have to come to the show to find them out!
Some readers might recall Iron River from an earlier incarnation, when it was presented on Canoe FM Radio. Jim Love says that he first created Iron River in the early days of the Canoe FM Radio Hall, partly because of a longstanding love of the medium of radio. As Love puts it, “Radio allowed you to do anything, be anywhere.” Even after the radio play aired, Love says that “the characters still haunted [him]. They needed to come back to life.” The invitation from Highlands Little Theatre to bring Iron River to the stage was an offer that Love “couldn’t refuse.”
The cast and crew have been hard at work getting ready to bring Iron River to the stage over the last several months. In addition to talented local actors, the play also features a wide range of local musical talent. Watching the show come together, there can be no doubt that there is a magic in this imagined community – that magic is what we’re all so excited to share with you. The show will be presented at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion on May 2 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). Tickets are $20 plus HST and are available at Sassy Digs in Minden, Cranberry Cottage in Haliburton or online at https://ironriver.brownpapertickets.com.