Theatre group enlists historian for WWI-centred drama

WHITE ROCK — Reaching the centennial of the First World War, White Rock-based theatre and arts company Peninsula Productions is producing Mary’s Wedding, an emotional and historic drama centred on WWI.

The play, which flickers between 1914 and 1920 in dream sequences, tells the story of lovers Mary and Charlie. Scenes flash “from the prairies to the trenches” in an emotional re-telling of war and love.

The production stars young actors Julia Siedlanowska and Harrison MacDonald as Mary and Charlie, lovers who meet just before Charlie was enlisted to WWI.

“When I first read the play, I was just sobbing,” Siedlanowska told the Now.

“I was just completely drawn to it. It’s a love story that’s very relatable, what really gets me in it is Mary’s regret and I find that it’s really relatable. I just had a feeling when I read it that I wanted to be in it.”

For the monumental event, the company has partnered with local historian Bob Mackay, whose father fought in the significant war and has penned a novel on the events.

Though a work of fiction the play, by Canadian playwright Steven Masicotte, strikes many real and accurate chords, including a common real-life character, Sargeant Flowerdew, from Mackay’s novel Soldier of the Horse.

“Sergeant Flowerdew, who actually existed and fought in the First World War, was part of Lord Strathcona’s C squadron, and that’s how we have a connection with Bob,” said Peninsula Productions’ director Wendy Bollard. “Bob’s father fought in the First World War alongside Flowerdew… so we’re incredibly fortunate to have (him) onboard to help us and to explain the stories.”

Mackay said the script does an incredible job of being accurate, through what he’s learned from his father.

“There are all kinds of things in the play that make me think Steven Massicotte did a lot of research and when he wrote the play, he really understood the background very well,” the historian said.

The play’s stars agree with director Bollard, who said that having a historian to help with the context is advantageous.

“It’s good to get second-hand information from memories. It’s not just reading on Wikipedia or studying it coldly,” Siedlanowska said. “You can add different motivations through people’s recollections.”

Her co-star, McDonald, echoed the semtiment.

“It’s easy to understand the human aspects and the emotions, but to be well-versed in the socio-political aspects and the mentalities and notions of the day, that’s a whole different language to immerse yourself in,” he said. “That’s why Bob’s here and that’s what we’re learning from him.”

The production runs nightly from Nov. 12 to 15 at White Rock Elementary’s Black Box Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at A Nov. 11 show at 2 p.m. will be free for veterans and their families, and by donation for the general public.


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