Lakeshore Arts and Sirius Theatrical Company are set to bring the human stories of the War of 1812 to life this summer, through a collaborative theatre project in celebration of the war’s bicentennial.
Written by Sirius’ artistic director Heather Dick and based on original source materials, Forgotten Voices: Beyond the Conflict of the War of 1812 is a fictional account that centres on three late Loyalist families in Etobicoke.
“We’re really trying to portray what it was like back then, especially looking at the women and children and families left behind and what was it like for the men on the edge of the battle,” Dick said. “We know about Sir Isaac Brock, we learn about the battles in Grade 7 History, but what was it like for the people? What’s the human story behind it?”
Using original source materials ranging from local family histories, letters, diaries and historical records, Dick has weaved a story of “courage, perseverance and sacrifice, revealing the challenges that afflicted the people left behind.”
The play’s cast of actors – both professional and community novices – aged 12 to 70+ will bring those Etobicoke stories of “sorrow and joy” to life on a series of outdoor stages at local parks across south Etobicoke from July 4 to 14.
Another unique facet of Forgotten Voices is that it is not just a play about Etobicoke residents, it is a play by Etobicoke residents, Dick added.
Last fall, Lakeshore Arts and Sirius hosted a series of free workshops to encourage local residents to participate in all facets of the play – from script writing and development, to acting, period dancing, and set/costume design.
“We’ve really tried to bring the whole community together,” she said. “At the writing workshops, I brought various snippets of stories and historical letters and articles in, and people were free to choose one and from that create a scene.”
And the outdoor setting of Forgotten Voices’ production, Dick added, will only lend authenticity to those stories.
“Life was outside in 1812 – it wasn’t indoors. So we thought if we do it in outdoor parks, then we have very much a sense of the real setting – what was it like on a farm yard, or the edge of a battlefield. We thought being outside would make it that much more real and alive for our audiences,” she said.
“We also wanted it to be a show that was going to be accessible to a wide variety of people, so people can just bring a picnic lunch and a lawn chair and come and watch it. I hope people come out and have a good time and that they learn something new and different about the War of 1812.”
Forgotten Voices: Beyond the Conflict of the War of 1812 will be performed Thursdays through Sundays from July 4 to 14 at various parks in Etobicoke. The show runs 75 to 80 minutes and there is no intermission.
Audiences are urged to bring a picnic dinner and a blanket. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.
The show schedule is as follows:
– Thursday, July 4 at 7 p.m. at Jeff Healey Park, 16 Daniels St. (Park Lawn Road and The Queensway)
– Friday, July 5 at 7 p.m. at Amos Waites Park, 1445 Lake Shore Blvd. W. (at Mimico Avenue)
– Saturday, July 6 and Sunday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at The Assembly Hall grounds, 1 Col. Samuel Smith Park Dr. (Kipling Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard West)
– Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at Queen’s Park, on the lawn in front of the Legislative Assembly (north corner of College Street and University Avenue).
– Friday, July 12 at 7 p.m. at Humber Bay Shores Park East, 100 Humber Bay Park Rd. W. (Park Lawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard West)
– Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 at 7 p.m. at Montgomery’s Inn grounds, 4709 Dundas St. W. (at Islington Avenue)