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1837: The Farmers' Revolt

Dates: March 26 to 29, 1998 Location: Carrefour de l’Isle-Saint-Jean, Charlottetown Written by: Rick Salutin Director: Bruce Barton Producer: Rob Thomson Stage Manager: Wendy Nicholson-Guignon Cast: Mae Ames, Kathleen Hamilton, Catherine MacDonald, Amanda Arnold, Nick Kenny, Bonnie Jean MacEachern, Eric Buell, Ben Kinder, Kirk MacKinnon, John Conway, Gill Mahen, Matthew MacRae, Kimberley Matthews

The programme called it “a multimedia historical tragicomedy of ideas”! It certainly was about history — the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada that led to responsible government in Canada. The ideas continue to be relevant, especially in PEI: the right to farm, the might of corporations, who has control of the land. There was a tragic element to the failure of the rebellion. But the play also had saucy humour: what was going on, for instance, behind the magician’s cape with the pretty assistant? And it had multimedia — several screens on which rear-projected photos and videos appeared … with some exciting sounds and special effects as well: an instant-growing crop of wheat, a talking head made out of actors, a real battle. (In fact one performance had to be halted, when an actor hit her head on the floor.)

13 actors became 113 characters, plus assorted trees, buildings, animals and statues. It was fast and physical: one scene after another, as if stories were being told by turning the pages of a photo album. What particularly attracted Bruce Barton to direct it was that this play was literally written after it was performed. The members of Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille researched the history and personal stories of the farmers, got into the character of the participants, acted it out and moulded it into a play … and after several performances, Rick Salutin wrote it down.

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