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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 32 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

26

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withdrawn from society before dying alone.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

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