Time travelling in Haliburton County with Rural Rogues
By Jenn Watt
A swath of patchy grass enclosed by heritage farm buildings and a dry stone fence was transformed last weekend through the power of performance into interrogation rooms, a cottage dock, a turn-of-the-century farmhouse, and heaven’s pearly gates.
Scenes from our Past, Present and Future, a Rural Rogues production in partnership with the Haliburton Highlands Museum, included the work of four local playwrights, who each contributed a script, and local actors and production crew who brought the works to life during two performances July 20 and 21. The playwrights were involved with the Rural Rogues playwriting workshops over the winter.
“Rural Rogues … focuses on the history, culture and environment of Haliburton County and our mandate is to produce original works about those subjects,” said director Michael Clipperton.
Three Sisters’ Garden by Fay Martin, a play based in Stanhope in 1861, was first up. Martin’s work imagines how Hannah Morey’s life would have unfolded as the first Indigenous woman to be recorded in the census as living in Haliburton County. Hannah’s life is closely intertwined with neighbours Belinda and Rowena, both settlers, who have struggles of their own – from fleeing Ireland’s Potato Famine to coping with a husband’s mental health issues with the backdrop of rugged wilderness.
Kate Butler’s play, A Woman has to Look after Herself, was a dramatization of the events that led Eva Coo to murder her employee, Harry Wright in 1934. Although the murder took place in New York State, Coo was from Haliburton. She was convicted of murder and was executed in 1935 by electric chair.
The Pearly Gates, a play by Oliver Zielke, took a turn from the historic into the realm of the philosophical as Haliburtonians Sam and Rebecca find themselves dead following an accidental explosion and facing a different kind of guardian of heaven’s gate: Google Assistant.
The performances were wrapped up with a play by Sue Vorvis, This is our Home, which follows a couple as they work through their vision of the ideal cottage based on the sometimes harried and frantic escapades they’ve experienced.
The four plays were performed by actors Rita Jackson, Victoria Bingham, Kate Butler, John Jackson, Lauren Forbes, Amy Brohm, and Paul Vorvis. Other members of the production team included Christine Darlington, Sue Vorvis, Marla Force, Fay Martin, Jenny Reiger and Adele Espina. Kate Butler was assistant director.
At the end of the performance, audience members were asked to vote for their favourite. This Is Our Home by Sue Vorvis received the most votes and will be performed at the Eastern Ontario Drama League’s One-Act Play Festival.
Anyone interested in trying playwriting can sign up for the introductory workshop, which runs weekly for eight weeks beginning Sept. 11. Contact Kate Butler at the Haliburton Highlands Museum for details: firstname.lastname@example.org.