p.m., Sept. 28)
Stock production loosely based on 'Riel'ity
By Fred Sherwin
Riel, played by Nicolas Dubus in the Vintage Stock Theatre production of
'Nothing But My Heart', talks to Father Boucher, played by Pierre Villeneuve.
The year is
1874 and Louis Riel is on the run from the authorities after authorizing
the execution of Orangeman Thomas Scott during the Red River Rebellion.
While on the
run, Riel is said to have stopped in Ottawa where he briefly took his seat
in the House of Commons before disappearing once again. No one knows for
sure where he went to next, but it's been assumed that he traveled to Quebec
either by steamer down the Ottawa River or on horseback to Quebec and then
on to the United States where he spent the next 10 years in self-imposed
While his movements
before leaving Canada are sketchy, there is one piece of evidence that places
him in Cumberland Village in April, 1874.
her memoirs in 1947, long time Cumberland resident Hattie Dunning included
the rather cryptic passage "Louis Riel was once brought into the Dunning
House when he was being taken through the place....Mother said they were
warned to keep away from the dining room and not let on they knew he was
The tidbit of
information was uncovered by Vintage Stock Theatre director and playwright
Susan Flemming while researching another project and immediately took on
a life of it's own. Flemming decided to share the information with fellow
writer John Cook and together they produced "Nothing But My Heart",
the latest installment in the theatre company's popular lamplight series
being performed this weekend on the grounds of the Cumberland Heritage Village
While the play
is loosely based on the possibility that Riel once hid out in Cumberland,
it's more of an examination of the relationship between the township's earliest
settlers who were largely French and Irish, Catholic and non-Catholic.
The Red River
Rebellion and Riel's role in it stirred up a great deal of antagonism between
the two communities across Upper and Lower Canada at the time and "Nothing
But My Heart" examines the idea that the good residents of Cumberland
were not immune to the political climate of the time.
The play itself
is presented in a series of five vignettes performed at different locations
on the museum grounds with only a half dozen kerosene lanterns used for
In the opening
scene, Navan founder and the town's first postmaster Michael O'Meara is
waiting for the mail to arrive in Cumberland Village when he recalls a time
11 years earlier when there was a commotion in the village over the arrival
of three strangers.
In the second
scene, Father Boucher is handed a note from Riel given to him by one of
the village's youngsters. While the audience doesn't find out the exact
contents of the note, it's assumed that Riel is looking for a safe place
to hide from the detectives who are close on his heels.
In the third
scene Riel talks to the local shopkeeper about purchasing a horse and is
partially overheard by two prying spinsters eager for more fodder for their
gossip. As the plot thickens, tensions rise and the undercurrent of resentment
between Catholics and non-Catholics moves closer to the surface.
The play ends
with the two detectives giving up their pursuit after no one in the village
is willing to co-operate with them.
is a wonderful history lesson even if it is loosely based on an urban legend
(or should that be a rural legend) and serves as an introduction to a number
of historical figures from the township's earliest days including Michael
O'Meara, Rev. Thomas Garrett, Reeve William Wilson and Thomas Delaney who
founded Sarsfield and was that community's first postmaster.
The cast includes
Nicolas Dubus as Louis Riel, Alan Meltzer as Michael O'Meara, Pierre Villeneuve,
Albert-Nicholas Nasrallah, Michael Yuill, Micheline Mathon, Sherry Thurig,
Marni Hunt-Stephens, Denis Bruyere, Tyler Smith, Peter Frayne, John Cook,
Emilie Perron-Clow, Dan Smythe, Vanessa Corcoran and Sarah Benfield.
The final two
performances will be held this Friday night and Saturday night starting
at 8 p.m. Admission is $12 per person and audience members are asked to
wear appropriate clothing and foot wear.
was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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