Playing the part of history in the Shadow of the Bridge

I was part of history this week by taking part in the In the Shadow of the Bridge Festival, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the high level bridge, Sept. 5.
 In addition to taking in some excellent entertainment, I got to get back into acting as a wandering character coal miner and newspaper editor for the Allied Arts Council’s special program.
 I’ve done a fair amount of acting in  other places and I’ve been an extra in a couple movies like Legends of the Fall, but there is  a definite high one gets from actually performing live.  It was a lot of fun walking around the grounds  and meeting some of the people  and telling them my story based on a brief outline submitted to us by the Allied Arts Council who had organized the event really well.
  I spent the past couple weeks researching coal mining circa 1909, and found a couple factual errors in our dossier and had to improvise around them,  for example my coal miner  named George Nilesen was supposed to have worked for  the North Western Coal and Navigation  Company, but moved out here in 1904  for a better life and more money with  his wife Evelyn and two children. However the Northwestern Coal  had been amalgamated into the Alberta Railway and Coal Company by Elliott Galt by then. My “wife” played by New West Theatre’s Kathy Zaborsky got together beforehand to co-ordinate our story. We decided the neighbours were taking care of our kids while we enjoyed a day out, and that our company owned miner’s shack was located right on the plains next to Fort Whoop Up, and my mine was right down the hill from the grounds, next to Whoop Up Drive. We also decided our ambition was to own a ranch closer to the mountains and out of the wind because mining was too dangerous and we didn’t want our kids growing up in the mines, like I did back in Nova Scotia. We had a good day, we rode the miniature steam train doing a circuit around the grounds and even went for a horse and cart ride, which put me into the pioneer mindset while giving me an appreciation for  the comfort of an automobile.
 It was a real pleasure acting with Kathy who threw herself  right into her character.
My newspaper editor,  Edward Goldbloom was interesting too. He was supposed to have moved to Lethbridge from Helena to start a newspaper after the railroad was built there in 1892, but Lethbridge already had a newspaper  then called the Lethbridge News. It was started by an ex- Northwest Mounted policeman named Elias Talbott (E. T) Saunders, so I changed the story to after I moved here I started working with him, covering Lethbridge’s nightlife among other things, which always made into the front page of the News.
That gave me a chance to bring out a notebook and actually cover the entertainment for L.A. Beat.
The afternoon performances were well done.
 Leon Barr did a fantastic job as always, singing singing material off of his “Pay Me My Money Down” CD including a Tom Waits inspired version of “San Francisco Bay Blues, and “Alonzo is Out For The Night” which was written with his wife Wendy Faith.  Joshua Fritz and Bridgette Yarwood’s set of original flamenco flavoured original music along with some covers. I also enjoyed some of the bits and pieces I saw of the Playgoers of Lethbridge  production of Priscilla  Pringle’s  Predicament, not to mention my first exposure to Desperate Jesters’ impressive improv.    I enjoyed the Blackfoot Ambassadors’ dancing demonstration as well
The University of Lethbridge drama department supplied us with our period costumes. They were made of wool and multi-layered, which made for a hot afternoon, so I was thankful for  the cool breeze wafting  through the crowd who were seated comfortably around the stage and milling  through Fort Whoop-Up and the multitude of artisans booths and beer gardens
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the evening program, 1909 era shoes are pretty uncomfortable, and besides I had another project to complete over the long weekend.

— By Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor