Miller and His Men costumes — first peek

July 11, 2011

From our recent costume fitting, here’s a first peek at the costume wizardry of Brenda Fieldhouse. (Photos: courtesy Terry Fieldhouse).

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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.


First Miller Barn rehearsal in black and white

June 25, 2011

Michael Gelman also captured a few contemplative moments from our first rehearsal in Miller Barn in black and white:

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Our first rehearsal in the Miller Barn

June 24, 2011

Recently (June 16, 2011), we had our first opportunity to rehearse in the Miller Barn at the Fanshawe Pioneer Village. It’s a versatile space, with great acoustics. It also has a double-stairway and an upstairs, two features that we immediately capitalized on.  Another notable feature is the large mill-wheel sitting right outside, setting the stage beautifully for a play about the contest between two millers. It would be hard to ask for a better venue in which to perform The Miller and His Men.

The Miller Barn is itself almost a character in the show. It represents the former frame barn in which the play was staged by the Officers of the London Garrison in 1842—The Theatre Royal. Through Michael Gelman’s perceptive lens, we see moments of hilarity, reflection, and despair as our cast negotiate the emotional extremes of the melodramatic tradition:

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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.


The Luxury of Wheat

June 2, 2011

This is the second 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 Luxury of Wheat by Dave Burnett

Wheat was rare in the early pioneer days. A substantial amount of seed wheat that left the shores of Europe did not last on the voyage across the Atlantic either due to spoilage or consumption by the crew and passengers on the ship. As a result, wheat for seed carried a premium making it too expensive for many settlers to buy in volume. Wheat and wheat flour and breads were a sign of affluence and often used as currency to pay mortgages or settle debts.