The one-woman show, Maud of Leaskdale, opened for its third season last week at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Historic Site in Leaskdale, with Jennifer Carroll in the title role. Now the creator of that piece, local writer and actor (and OnStage Uxbridge co-founder) Conrad Boyce, is debuting another show of his this week, that will run for the summer at the Uxbridge Historical Centre on the Sixth Concession.
The Bohemian has a few things in common with Maud of Leaskdale. First, it features the words of another great Canadian writer, this time poet Robert Service, who was born in the same year as LMM, 1874. Second, it is told in the form of a journal, in this case that of a fictional American poet named Stephen Poore, struggling to make a living in Paris in the years 1913 and 1914, who joins up as an ambulance driver when the First World War breaks out.
Third, the play is staged in a historic church, the 80-seat Fifth Line Church at the Historical Centre, as a companion piece to the Centre’s summer-long exhibit, Uxbridge at War. The Bohemian will perform Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings (though not all of them, so check with the Centre at 905-852-5854 for a complete list of show dates).
A major difference is that The Bohemian is a musical; composers Bonnie Lawrence and Val Dean set a number of Service’s poems to melodies reminiscent of the period. The play had its original premiere in Whitehorse, Yukon in 1980, where Boyce and Lawrence were prominent members of the performing arts community.
“Yes, the show’s been in mothballs for more than three decades,” admits Boyce, “since Bonnie left the Yukon shortly after we wrote it. But now a couple of factors – the centennial of the Great War, and the availability of a collaborator as excellent as she was – seem to make it an ideal time for its revival.”
Boyce will be joined on stage by singer/musician Jane Loewen (another OnStage veteran), with whom he has worked many times since her arrival in the Uxbridge area about ten years ago. Loewen plays piano, guitar and accordion in the show.
“Most Canadians know Robert Service as the Bard of the Yukon,” says Boyce, “the creator of Sam McGee and Dan McGrew. But in the early part of the last century, he was actually more renowned for his war poetry. His second book of poems from that period, Ballads of a Bohemian, published in 1921, provides all the content for the show, and it’s virtually autobiographical, since Service himself served as an ambulance driver during the war, like many other writers and artists, such as Ernest Hemingway and A.Y. Jackson. The material about the war is very moving, very powerful.”
Tickets for The Bohemian are $25 ($20 for students or seniors), available at Blue Heron Books or at the door. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Show dates are July 22, 25, 26, 29 and August 5, 12, 16, 22, 23, 26 & 29.