Timescape: History Plays and Isolation
Such national cheerleading may have been thought most necessary in a Canada in the
first throes of the Great Depression.
Saskatchewan was again being challenged by some hard times in the 1980s, the
robust wheat prices of the 1970s having fallen. Perhaps playwrights felt a need to tap
once more into stories from a past, more heroic time. Whether the plays deal with heroic,
larger-than-life characters or the less heroic, Saskatchewan dramas are characterized by a
pervasive sense of isolation. The characters find themselves physically, mentally,
emotionally, and/or clinically isolated from what they care about.
History plays are radio plays inspired by real characters from Saskatchewan’s
history. Heroes are drawn from stories of real, local people that have been told and
retold. With retelling, these stories begin to grow into epic, mythic proportions. Thus,
radio plays of Saskatchewan dealing with History often deal with famous, lonely, tragic
figures from Saskatchewan’s past.
Tom Sukanen (1878-1943) is an enduring character from Saskatchewan history
whose life story already fits Frye’s model of the tragic hero: isolated, accomplished, but
withdrawn from society before dying alone. The apparent futility of his struggle and the
pointlessness of his death place him in good stead for nomination into Atwood’s hall of
Canadian Heroes. The mid-to-late seventies saw a renewed interest, dramatic and
otherwise, in Sukanen’s story. This interest was fuelled by the re-discovery of the ship
by LT. “Moon” Mullen of Moose Jaw. The ship was moved to what is now the Sukanen
Ship Museum, south of Moose Jaw, and restored. Later, a small chapel was built and the
ground consecrated in preparation for the re-interment of Sukanen’s remains, moved