Garrison Theatricals participates in Eldon House ghost event

November 10, 2012
Mark Tovey as Wenman Wynniatt (Photo Credit Roxanne Lutz)

Mark Tovey as Wenman Wynniatt at the Great Eldon House Ghost Hunt 2012 (Photo Credit Roxanne Lutz)

Garrison Theatricals’ Mark Tovey played the ghost of officer Wenman Wynniatt at Eldon House on October 18th, in a very well-attended event organized by Eldon House and Roxanne Lutz of Misstorical Fiction. Mark wandered the house and grounds of Eldon House dressed in an officers’ uniform, appearing and disappearing as the occasion required!

This article in The Londoner (The Ghosts of Eldon House’s Past, by Shobhita Sharma) includes an evocative picture of Mark as Wynniatt. Roxanne Lutz has a detailed and richly illustrated post (The Great Eldon House Ghost Hunt 2012) over at Misstorical Fiction.

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Dan Brock’s chronology of London — Fragments from the Forks: London Ontario’s Legacy

September 24, 2011
Daniel J Brock Fragments From the Forks book cover

Daniel J. Brock / Fragments From the Forks: London Ontario's Legacy (2011)

Dan Brock will shortly be launching his long-awaited chronology of London, Ontario—Fragments from the Forks: London Ontario’s Legacy.  The nearly 500 page volume is edited by Catherine B. McEwen (The Carty Chronicles of Landmarks and Londoners), and published by The London and Middlesex Historical Society. Fragments from the Forks documents events in London from the ice age through to 2010. Given the scrupulous care that Brock takes in documenting primary source information, this will undoubtedly become a standard reference work for London historians.

“Nothing on this scale,” says Brock, “has ever been attempted for the city of London before.”

Fragments From the Forks contains five parts:

  1. the chronology (over 4,500 entries)
  2. illustrations (maps and never before published photos)
  3. tables (population statics, city mayors, county wardens, police and fire chiefs, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, MPPs, MPs, a consumer price index for the years 1761 through 2010)
  4. two pages of abbreviations
  5. an index (47 pages each with three columns)

The London and Middlesex Historical Society will be hosting a book launch on Saturday, October 15th, 2011, from 1PM to 4PM at Attic Books (240 Dundas St., London, ON). Copies will be available at $40 for softcover and $50 for the hardcover edition.

The cover (right), depicts the Walter J. Blackburn memorial fountain (which officially opened in May 2009) superimposed on a landscape that hearkens back to a forks prior to settlement: all of London’s history encapsulated. The arcs of the fountain itself can be seen as the Fragments of the title.


Melodrama, “Miller”, G&S and Us

July 19, 2011

Joe Lella, Director

Pirate King

JB Amerongen’s The Actor in Dickens (1972) disparages melodrama in early 19th Century England. He states that the English love this mode of entertainment which has “continued down to the present day without there being much improvement in its insignificant plot, and for the most part, shallow wit.” He includes Isaac Pocock’s The Miller and His Men) in this scathing assessment, and says that only the work of Gilbert and Sullivan is a “brilliant exception” (p. 107).

Isaac Pocock’s The Miller and His Men was first produced in “big” London in 1813. It achieved some success and was later produced in Upper Canada (1842) at London’s first theatre, The Theatre Royal. We present it now as an homage to that theatre.

G & S’s first collaboration hit the boards in England in 1871, some sixty years later. By 2011 we thought it was time to inject new life into “Miller”, especially if we were to offer it to contemporary audiences. Our use of beautiful G& S songs and choruses from The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and Patience, recognizes these gentlemen’s rather dubious melodramatic heritage while enriching our adaptation of Pocock’s work.

Along with G&S’ music, we have tried to appeal to modern Canadian audiences by up-dating “Miller’s” language, nudging it towards Jane Austen’s effective and simple prose dating approximately from the same era. Our reading of “Miller” found it abounding in stuffy early 19th century verbiage. This may be unfair since we, of course, didn’t live then. But Jane Austen did and her language is like a clear drink of water compared to Pocock’s stale tea. Our language doesn’t achieve what hers does but maybe a later version shall approach it.

We trust we’ve made the play more engaging for our modern audience too by setting it near our London in Upper Canada almost immediately after the repression, exile, and executions of many MacKenzie and Papineau/Patriote (Lower Canada) Rebels (1837-1838). The British colonial power was wary of lingering rebel sympathisers and of possible American incursions into Southern Ontario. They sent a garrison here to keep an eye on things.

Pirates of Penzance Poster

Our play is set in a forested area, north of London. An old miller’s beautiful young daughter is pursued by two suitors: one older, but rich; another hard working, handsome and young but poor. The young hero makes a secret pledge to rid the land of robbers (clandestine rebels) who despise the crown and are yearning for Canada’s independence. The old miller knows not their dark intentions and how they have stolen his mill.  The hero shall try to restore the fortunes of the old miller to win the hand of the beautiful daughter. Little does he know that the older suitor is one of the rebels (bandits) and has darker plans for them all. These plans, however, must contend not only with the hero’s wily resolve but the force of the local British Garrison and its leader, Sir Walter Watford Hill, who pines for his dear ‘Loretta,” and his batman, Wilbur, who yearns for thick slices of roast beef.

Audiences are urged to cheer the heroes, and boo the villains!

Rather than what William Archer called melodrama then, i.e. tragedy without reason, we here present “almost tragedy” with historical reasons—or rather with the rationale that it might lead to greater appreciation of our heritage. That our play is being staged in a period barn (like London’s first theatre, the Theatre Royal) can only heighten this.

We have not, however, foresworn “corny” melodrama. Heritage can be campy fun.

Isaac Pocock’s plot for “Miller” fit the London situation in 1842 beautifully. The slightly adapted G&S music and lyrics fit it like a glove. For historic ‘verisimilitude’ we added a couple of 19th century Canadian songs for good patriotic measure (our show opened not long after Canada Day!).

And after all is said and sung, we dare our audiences—dare you—not to enjoy this corn filled, but puffed up and patriotic pastry.

Songs Adapted for The Miller and His Men, in order of performance

Pour Oh Pour the Rebel Lager, sung by Miller’s Men
(Gilbert & Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance, Pour Oh Pour the Pirate Sherry)
Sorry Her Lot Who Loves Too Well,
sung by Claudine (G&S, HMS Pinafore)
Stay, Lucas, Stay/Ah Leave Me Not to Pine,
sung by Claudine, Lucas (G&S, Pirates, Stay Frederic Stay)
Stay Prithee Stay, sung by Claudine, Sir Walter, Wilbur, Kelmar
(G&S, Pirates, Stay Frederic Stay)
Une Canadienne Errante, sung by Margot, Caroline
(Lyrics, Un Canadien Errant, M.A. Gerin-Lajoie [with translation])
I Hear the Soft Note…, sung by Margot, Caroline
(G&S, Patience)
•  Sad is that Woman’s Lot/Silvered is the Auburn Hair,
sung by Ravina (G&S, Patience, Silvered is the Raven Hair)
• Reprise, Pour Oh Pour, sung by Miller’s Men
(G&S, Pirates of Penzance)
The Maple Leaf Forever
(Alexander Muir (1867), with the 2010 version of Vladimir Radian’s lyrics)
Hail Poetry, sung by Miller’s Men (G&S, Pirates)
A Grenadier, sung by grenadiers and cast in finale
(G&S, HMS Pinafore, A British Tar)

 


The Army Comes to Town

July 11, 2011

This is the fifth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Army Comes to Town by Dave Burnett

It was advisable for the miller to be on good terms with the local garrison. Many of the commanders had the authority to administer water rights and land holdings—both critical to the mill. The military also came with cash to purchase the flour and food produced by the pioneers in the community.

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West.  Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West. 25 Oct 1842. Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20


The Only Game in Town

June 26, 2011
Actor Andrew House, playing the dishonest Miller, "Grindoff", in The Miller and His Men

Actor Andrew House, playing the dishonest Miller, "Grindoff", in The Miller and His Men

This is the fourth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Only Game in Town by Dave Burnett

Unfortunately, there was often only one mill in each settlement, so one was stuck dealing with a less than honest miller. Grain or timber were often the only commodities that the pioneers could turn into ready cash, apart from their labour. One common complaint among settlers was that they would deliver top grade wheat to the mill only to receive poor quality flour in return. The miller would be accused of keeping the best for himself. This attitude even exists today among some farmers.


The 83rd Regiment comes to town

June 23, 2011
83rd Regiment of Foot - 1838 uniform

83rd Regiment of Foot - 1838 uniform

Local historian Roxanne Lutz has been documenting the Eldon House ghost story in a series of videos at MisstoricalFiction. The Eldon House ghost story centres on the mysterious death of an officer of the 83rd Regiment named Lieutenant Wenman Wynniatt in May 1841. Roxanne Lutz and Alex Chartrand gave a talk on the ghost story at the Eldon House interpretive centre to a capacity crowd on May 15, 2011. A flavour of that talk can be gained from reading their article in the London Free Press, New Light Shed on Chilling Tale.

One of Roxanne’s recent blog-posts (The 83rd Regiment comes to town) mentions the theatre

Attending balls, plays, concerts & horse races were just a few ways the redcoats & early London well-to-dos unwound when they weren’t fixing their wagons or marching around in circles at the barracks.

and includes a terrific graphic of an Officer of the 83rd (right).

We are pleased to offer, with Roxanne’s kind permission, her recent blog post and video on the 83rd regiment coming to town.


The 83rd regiment comes to town
by Roxanne Lutz

How did Wenman Wynniatt get to London, anyway? Why, he arrived with the 83rd Regiment of Foot, of course! They came to town on May 30th, 1841.

With little entertainment, many Londoners were stoked to learn the British garrison and the touring regiments were going to lay roots nearby, arriving to pour cash into the shops and ale into their bellies.

A lack of military action, after the initial rebellion in 1838, motivated British military gents to figure out ways to pass the time in an attempt to remain civilized in the face of total boredom. Attending balls, plays, concerts & horse races were just a few ways the redcoats & early London well-to-dos unwound when they weren’t fixing their wagons or marching around in circles at the barracks.

As for London ladies, nineteenth-century chicks thought those red jackets looked pretty snug in all the right places… even Sarah Harris, who initially rolled her eyes at the prospect of catching “scarlet fever” thought differently after a summer or two of shiny buttons and shouts of “tally-ho”.

Photos in video courtesy of Archives Canada and the University of Western Ontario Archives.


The Miller’s Reputation

June 15, 2011
Dave Burnett with millstone in front of Miller Barn, Fanshawe Pioneer Village (Photo credit: Michael Gelman)

Dave Burnett with millstone in front of Miller Barn, Fanshawe Pioneer Village (Photo credit: Michael Gelman)

This is the third in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Miller’s Reputation by Dave Burnett

Ten bags of wheat to the mill did not mean returning home with ten bags of flour. Several factors contributed to the inefficiency of the process, including honesty. Today, the industry is tightly regulated, but each miller and mill in the 1800s had their own standards.

Since many pioneers had limited cash, the miller would hold back some of the flour as payment for his troubles. The considerable variance in the miller’s take gave rise several decades later to our contemporary standards.