Bodyscape: Isolation, Health, and the Woman’s Voice
crops and the weather. We’re the guys who got Medicare going” (14). Although
Sapergia’s plays deal with healthcare-related themes, their tone is different from that of
plays like Air Ambulance and To Do And Endure. Ambulance and To Do celebrate the
heroes who dispense healthcare: in the case of Ambulance, the brave men who conquer
the wilderness to save lives; in the case of To Do, the visionary women who fight in the
political forum for better healthcare legislation. Sapergia’s plays Old Crocks and
Grandma’s Foot speak more from the patient’s view about the weaknesses and
strengths of Saskatchewan’s medical past.
Barbara Sapergia's Old Crocks (20:00), a historical drama set at Fort San circa
the late 1930s, was first broadcast on February 12th, 1980, as a part of CBC
Saskatchewan's Arts à la Carte Festival '80.66 Sapergia wrote this play twenty years
after Innes wrote Air Ambulance. While distance, isolation, and specialist medical
treatment are themes common to both plays, Sapergia’s “take” is far less heroic.
Sapergia’s play explores how medicine, in some cases, puts more emphasis on the
morality of fighting disease than it does on the overall well-being of the patient.
The introduction to the play provided a solid introduction to Fort San in general.
Built in 1917 by the Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League, Fort San had 369 beds at
its most occupied and accepted patients from all over southern Saskatchewan. Patients
were encouraged to take what might now be labeled a “proactive” approach to their
66 Old Crocks, written for Festival ’80 (see Timescape: History and Isolation) – Sapergia notes Old Crocks built on her previous research into Fort San with Geoffrey Ursell: “I should mention that we’d already done a [stage]play set at Fort San, the former tuberculosis sanatorium at Fort Qu’Appelle, which became a foundation for Old Crocks. It was nothing like the stage play, but it drew on all the stuff we had learned” (interview, 5). Ursell notes: “Where the Fort San material came from is that there were summer classes at Fort San – writing classes there – and we went to them for a number of years and got interested in the place and the kinds of lives that were lived there. That led first to a stage play that Gabe Prendergast at the University of Regina commissioned and produced called The Tenth Negative Pig” (interview 14).