Friday, 13 June 2014

A History Making Evening at PEI's Province House

Last night Prince Edward Island's Legislative Assembly Chamber at Province House was filled with theatrics of a brand quite different than the norm. Instead of  powerful opinions being flung from one side of the room to another, there was the passion of our Province's Rural History being illustrated by song and the spoken word. Yes, last night history was made in the very place that helped to create the history which we are celebrating this year. For the first time in Province House's history, the venue was opened completely and given to the public for their enjoyment of this well appointed discussion and performance.

To a crowd of people, Islanders and otherwise that spread between three Chambers of the Province House, there was a performance, lead by Dr. Ed MacDonald's lecture on the topic rural PEI in the 1860's entitled "Land of One's Own: Prince Edward Island in the Confederation Era" and highlighted by the astoundingly talented cast of "The Master's Wife" a theatrical production taking place at Orwell's Corner this year.

I, myself, was fortunate enough to be seated in the Legislative Assembly Chamber, where all the action was taking place. Above in the gallery onlookers were entertained and downstairs a small theater of guests viewed a live stream of the production. Beginning with rousing fiddle music and an introduction to the concept that, once upon a time, PEI was considered a "world in miniature" as Sir Andrew McPhail so poetically coined the phrase; ever person present was brought back  to the time of Confederation. And yet, in contrast to the Charlottetown Conference that the Island and world at large are becoming more aware of with each passing day, we were not in the grand plan that helped shape our Canada.

No, we were with the layman, working the land, creating a life in earnest, waging prime social and sometimes petty domestic wars, but most of all opposing Confederation. Indeed, for reasons that I can much less aptly explain, our pioneer forefathers from one end of the Island to the other were against the unity of the British Colonies. Now, with our current prospective this seems absurd, but as Dr. MacDonald pointed out, at least one of the reasons for that still lingers with us. The concept of "Us" and "Them" that has always been an integral part of Prince Edward Island's culture. That Heritage still whispers in terms like "From Away" a title bestowed on anyone that's come to PEI without actually being born on the prized red Island soil.

Of course, there were more profound catalysts for such strong opinions. Such as the lucrative concepts of being a world in and within the borders of the Island and of each man owning their own land. I think that even from the short explanation that I have to offer we can see that all Islanders come by their opinionated natures honestly, in turn also their pride of ownership and sense of responsibility towards Island are too just as deeply rooted. All these are unique virtues, passed down like heirlooms to be treasured and even envied by those who cannot claim to be "Islanders".

Of course, if Dr. MacDonald was the paintbrush in this portrait, the cast of the Master's Wife in their period attire and an air of the past were the paint. They brought to life something so distant and yet within the audience's grasp because of their powerful words, song, acting and of course the venue which is as authentic Confederation Era PEI as can be offered. The quotations from Sir Andrew MacPhail's memoirs, "The Master's Wife" were delivered with passion and almost ethereal authenticity while the fiddle was given life through talent and the notes of MacPhail's father's "wallpaper music". Just from this taste of what "The Master's Wife" offers, I would encourage everyone who can possibly go to Orwell's Corner to make that pilgrimage. You'll gain something that you didn't even know you were missing. It's enriching with an outstanding amount of information delivered as smoothly as the sugared brandy that was humorously discussed during last night's production.

Last evening, Humor and History blended harmoniously for a lecture that was engaging and informative, everything you could want when presented with such an important topic being delivered to such a broad spectrum of people. And not only did we grasp history by words and action but were too a part of it and being part of that kind of history was very special, indeed. A hearty dose of appreciation is more than in order for everyone concerned. To Dr. Ed MacDonald, the talented cast of "The Master's Wife", the evening's dedicated organizers and doubtless many unsung heroes who were behind the scenes.

As one, impressionable girl whose forefather's feet are planted firmly on the Island and yet me still being "From Away" who wants nothing more than to understand the intricate workings of this Island, your work weaved a tapestry of beauty and raw honesty that sparked once more my passion and imagination for this land, rich in history, personality, dedication and most of all it's people.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your kind review. As a part of the chorus and inexperienced in theatrical productions, it is encouraging to know that people are enjoying it!