Introduction: Isolation, Radio Drama, and Saskatchewan
Burke also addresses the question as to why so many contemporary plays exist
that deal with the tragic, lonely, and deadly themes of Saskatchewan’s past. The settler-
era was long gone by the 1980s, but the images remain. This may have less to do with
remembering history than it does in dealing with recent economic and ecological stresses
on the Saskatchewan farming community. Burke suggest that the end of the farming way
of life for so many Saskatchewan farmers as a crisis that still resonates in the darker
themes that surface in Saskatchewan radio drama of the past 25 years. She observes that,
when it comes to Saskatchewan playwrights, “we like death by the dozens. Actually, we
decided that the quintessential motif for a Saskatchewan piece of writing was an old lady
dying in the snow” (interview). This old, dying woman has deep resonances within
Saskatchewan. Burke elaborates that, while Saskatchewan’s population is aging, one
should also consider:
the notion that, for the last 25 years, there’s been a way of life dying -- and that for that the metaphor of a woman, especially an older woman, is apt -- because a woman is so closely associated with the land, and to the kind of economy that Saskatchewan has had, you know -- Mother Wheat? That old lady dying in the snow, that’s us -- to a generation of playwrights.
In the 1980s, factors like low grain prices and the longest drought since the 1930s
accelerated the rural exodus of Saskatchewan farm families to urban centres. Stories of
settlers trying and failing still ring true to farmers, especially those getting ready to
auction off their great-grandfather’s home quarter.9 In the heart of next-year-country,
hope and community can sustain, but only while the bank plays along.
In Landscape: Isolation and Quandt, the power of setting is studied through
three plays by James Quandt. Frye’s thoughts on the dominant images of winter, barren
9 - Ranchers too, considering the recent economic fallout related to fears of Mad-Cow disease in North America.