Past molding the present

New play examines Albertan’s roots

A lot of people would find the prospect of spending a night in a ghost town a little too creepy. Not so for the Theatre Junction team which has recently produced Lucy Lost Her Heart. The team’s research involved spending a night in the abandoned mining town of Wayne Alberta.

Once a bustling burg inhabited by miners the whistle-stop now has a population of 14 people. The Last Chance Saloon a local pub at one time frequented by miners after work remains open for business even as its walls are adorned with bullet holes.

Mark Lawes artistic director of Theatre Junction says the crew travelled to Wayne to get a sense of what it feels like to stand in a place that was once teeming with ambition but is now almost desolate.

“Wayne is an example of many towns in the area that came into being as a result of the coal-mining industry and when the mine closed down the towns had no reason to exist. The dream of economic prosperity and financial independence came with a huge sacrifice both human and environmental loss.”

Lucy Lost Her Heart is about some residents of the fictional abandoned town of Lucy who one day go down into the deserted mine and get stuck there. The reason they get stuck in the mine remains a mystery Lawes says because “in the end it’s about how people can survive together.”

The ensemble spent time visiting a variety of local sites as part of their research. First they visited the local coal mine where there’s now a museum and one can take a guided tour of the mine. On the tour the group heard a variety of interesting historical anecdotes. For example miners in Wayne formed the first unions in Alberta. Small children from England travelled to the West to work in the coal mine and were often put to work in a sorting room. After just a month’s work they often went completely deaf. Yarns like these proved to be instrumental to the crew as they strived to authentically create the atmosphere of such a place.

The team heard another interesting story that inspired the creation of a particular figure in the show.

“A lot of the people that came here gave up everything to come to the West. And then the First World War happened and they were asked to go back and fight the war in Europe and they were killed most of them. So it was a real kind of irony escaping that and going back to Europe often leaving their wife and children here by themselves.”

When the ensemble heard about men like this they felt the need to create the figure of a soldier who travelled across the ocean and out West to find land and work only to be sent back to the place he came from to fight the war.

Lucy Lost Her Heart is the result of a collaborative process that Lawes directed whileworking with a mixed bag of artists including actors sculptors musicians and dancers. The group explored the deconstruction of fairy tales and other stories and memories passed down to them by their parents and grandparents. They improvised a variety of scenes and once they felt they had assembled enough material they wrote the script.

The play incorporates a wide gamut of art forms like scenography music and dance.

The creative process is influenced by a new kind of creativity that emerged in Europe after the Second World War. In short the thinking goes that the traditional mode of storytelling didn’t prevent the war so artists began searching for a new way to tell stories one less focused on plot and character and concentrated more on the suggestion of theme. Lucy attempts to follow that same esthetic variety.