Timescape: History Plays and Isolation
1. History with a capital “H”. History plays feature the historic events or
historical figures as the main driving force of the narrative. These plays can take
on the historic figures that have captured imaginations in the past and grown to
epic, if not mythic proportions, e.g. Denison’s Romance of Canada.
2. history with a lower-case “h”, i.e. plays that use history as a backdrop for the
story being told. The history play, leads to explorations of the everyday struggles
of regular people living in Saskatchewan’s past. A specific location, time, and/or
event is established as the world in which the story being told unfolds. It is
history, as Ian E. Wilson defines it, as being “about some very everyday people
doing some extraordinary activities.”28
The historically-inspired plays featured in this chapter range between these two ends of
the scale: History to history.
Merrill Denison’s Romance of Canada fits into the History play motif. Denison
was assigned the task of writing plays celebrating the achievements of people of
importance to Canadian History (at least Canadian History as told by the dominant
patriarchal cultural majority). Soldiers, explorers and politicians like Henry Hudson,
Pierre Radisson, Montcalm, Alexander MacKenzie, and the Fathers of Confederation,
dominate the narrative; with the occasional nod to a brave woman (e.g. Laura Secord or
Madam La Tour). Places important to Canadian history are also involved, for example,
Seven Oaks, where the battle for control of the fur trade between the Hudson’s Bay
Company and the Northwest Company led to a bloody encounter between HBC settlers
and the Northwest Company Métis. The Romance of Canada was intended to help
Full quote in Introduction.