Introduction: Isolation, Radio Drama, and Saskatchewan
framework will rely most heavily on the observations and theories of Northrop Frye,
Margaret Atwood, Kelley Jo Burke, and Carol Gilligan.
Timescape: History Plays and Isolation will explore plays that deal with
characters and stories from Saskatchewan history. These include the stories of Tom
Sukanen, The Willow Bunch Giant, and Piapot, as well as the experiences of early
settlers and farmers as envisioned by playwrights of later decades. Northrop Frye’s The
Archetypes of Literature (1951) and Anatomy of Criticism (1957) are of particular
interest, especially as the human experience of isolation corresponds to many of the
images, symbols, and myths expressed in the tragic side of his critical cycle.2 Radio
drama is an immediate genre that has a very short time to tell a story. In this collection of
plays, the average playing length is twenty to thirty minutes. In order to more quickly
connect with the listener and facilitate the action of the play, radio playwrights often
employ the familiar while appealing to the deeper archetypal or mythic dimensions of
even local characters and situations.
Frye’s cycle provides a road map for familiar cycles: “the solar cycle of the day,
the seasonal cycle of the year, and the organic cycle of human life” (Bate 606).3 In this
selection of radio plays, the listener encounters such familiar phases as “the sunset,
autumn and death phase. Myths of the dying god, of the violent death sacrifice and
isolation of the hero. Subordinate characters: The traitor and the siren” and the tragic
turns of “The darkness, winter, and dissolution phase. Myths of the triumph of these
powers; myths of floods and the return of chaos, of the defeat of the hero and
Götterdämmerung myths. Subordinate characters: the ogre and the witch” (Bate 606,
As laid out in The Archetypes of Literature – see diagram in the Appendix A: Frye Chart. For a visual representation of more of Frye’s cycles, see Appendix A: Frye’s Theory of Drama.