Catch a River by the Tale

Catch a River by the Tale was the third iteration of The River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, PEI. The 2018 Pageant was directed by Ker Wells and I, in collaboration with over 140 incredible people – 60 performers, over 70 volunteers, and an 18-person creative team.

This year’s Pageant maintained the production process that has been in place since the first year but radically shifted the show’s structure, moving from a processional performance through the village of New Glasgow to a single-site production in an outdoor field of the Little Victory Microfarms. The new structure allowed us to explore the potential of using both land and water as stage, and create more lasting design elements on the site, including a Cantastoria frame, platforms embedded in the river for six water dancers, and a hanging installation of chime boxes created by composer and instrument-builder George Rahi.

 

The Pageant’s narrative, informed by the work of writers Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard and Virginia Lee Burton, took on a much more expansive, expressionistic focus. We sought to create space for attention and contemplation of the natural environment, and how we, as human beings, create a sense of identity and place through the act of telling stories. We were guided by Oliver’s proposal of attention as the beginning of devotion, and we used a three-act structure to guide the audience’s attention to the landscape, the water, and the transformations that emerge in the space where the water meets the land and thus, human activity.

Artistic & production support from Emily Wells, Jane Wells, Ian McFarlane, Marti Hopson, Travis Boudreau, Joanna Caplan, Evan Medd, Anne Paulus, George Rahi, Arnold Smith, Sebastian Poissant-Labelle, Sue Leblanc, Laura Astwood, Kathy Randels, Robin & Debi Stevenson, Tara Callaghan, Kyla Gardiner, Krissi Ewing, Afton Mondoux and many, many others.

Catch a River by the Tale received financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the PEI Arts Grants program and Innovation PEI.

Photos by Robert Van Waarden

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones – inkberry, lamb’s quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones – rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.”  

-Mary Oliver, Upstream