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.


The cast in action on Victoria Day

May 30, 2011

Michael Gelman, our intrepid ASM, also a skilled photographer, has begun photographing the cast in action. Here are some glimpses of our Victoria Day rehearsal (23 May 2011) as seen through Gelman’s lens:

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The Water and Other Perils

May 30, 2011
Detail of Mill

Detail of Mill

This is the first 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 Water and Other Perils by Dave Burnett

Ontario is dotted with old mills and remnants of them. Locations for settlements were often chosen on the basis of proximity to year round running water / topography to create a mill pond as a reservoir to manage water flow. The water flow could then be diverted to drive a water wheel and power the mill.

Coping with floods, torrents and drought were part of the miller’s lot. A miller would heed the weather because failure could mean the demise of his mill.

Likewise the grain and flour in the mill had to be kept clean and dry lest the flour not be fit for human consumption.


Harris Neighbourhood Walking Tour at Eldon House

May 28, 2011

Looking for something to do this afternoon? Join a tour of London’s 19th century buildings, led by an Eldon House interpreter, leaving Eldon House this afternoon (Saturday, May 28th), at 1PM, 2PM, and 3PM.

This Hike will explore the environs of London’s oldest home : Eldon House. Participants will also be lead to the oldest commercial buildings, municipal buildings and settlement sites important to the founding of London. This walk begins at Eldon House.

Eldon House is located at 481 Ridout Street. It is London’s oldest residence, and is well worth a visit at any time (Hours).


Reconstruction of early colour film about the life of Thomas Talbot

May 27, 2011
Still from the filming of "Talbot of Canada"

Still from the filming of "Talbot of Canada"

London’s first colour feature film was called Talbot of Canada. A life of Col. Thomas Talbot, it was shot on the shores of Lake Erie. Much of the original film, and all of the audio, was lost in a fire, but what remained was painstakingly reconstructed by Chris Doty and a team of voice artists. Doty wrote a charming account of both the film and its reconstruction.

There is a copy of Talbot of Canada available at the London Public Library.


The Miller and His Men

May 26, 2011

On February 2nd, 1842, the Officers of the London Garrison, Canada West, performed a Melo-Drama—Sir Isaac Pocock’s Miller and His Men:

Advertisement for "The Miller and His Men" at the Theatre Royal in London, Canada West, to be performed on 2 February 1842We chose the Garrison’s Miller for our theatrical re-enactment because we were tickled by the idea of “repeating” a show had already been brought back “by particular request”. We have no record of the first production of Miller in London, but we must presume from this advertisement that there was another, earlier London performance of Miller in 1840 or 1841.

We know from Daniel Lysons’ autobiography that when he was stationed in London he “had charge of the theatre and painted the scenes.” Our re-production of Miller and His Men includes one of Lysons’ paintings as a scene backdrop, as well as paintings by other officers stationed in the London Garrison in the 1840s, including John Herbert Caddy and Sir James Alexander.

Daniel Lysons

Lieutenant Daniel Lysons, detail from Grand Military Steeple-Chase of May 9, 1843

Alexander described Lysons as “an officer of great talent and taste.” By his own account, Lysons was “a smooth faced boy” then, and regularly took on the ladies roles. At the time, all of the female roles were played by men. Lysons apparently excelled at these. A review of one of his performances from the London Herald of February 18th, 1843, reports:

Emma Leslie (Mr. Lysons, Royals.) wore the petticoats with an ease and grace well becoming the character. Every emotion, every gesture and movement, indicated a familiarity with the peculiarities of womankind, that does not fall to the lot of most men. Had we not known that he was a man, it would have been almost impossible to have convinced us to the contrary. (p. 2, c. 6)

We know that Lysons played Ravina in Miller and His Men when his regiment (the 1st Royal Scots) performed the play in Québec, and since he was still playing female roles in 1843, there is every chance that he also played Ravina when Miller and His Men was performed in London, Canada West. As a nod to this tradition, in our production of Miller and His Men, three of roles that men played are now being played by women!

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Alexander, James E. S. L’Acadie; Or, Seven Years’ Explorations in British America. London, EN: H. Colborn. 1849, p.237.

Lysons, Daniel. Early Reminiscences. London, EN: John Murray, 1896. p. 161.


Opening the Theatre

May 19, 2011

We are requested to state that the Garrison Theatre at this place, will be opened on Tuesday the 12th of July, 2011, when Garrison Theatricals will perform the highly popular Melo-Drama of Miller and His Men.