What is remembered of even the most famous of us a few decades after our death? Often lamentably little beyond a few salient facts.
Think of Tommy Douglas, whom Canadians in at 2004 CBC poll voted “The Greatest Canadian” of all time. What comes to mind at the mention of his name but a few of the most obvious facts? He was from Saskatchewan. He invented Medicare. He was leader of the CCF (whatever exactly that was) and
then first leader of the Federal NDP. OK, what else? Wasn’t he a preacher of some sort, a Baptist maybe?
But what about the man? Who was he and what were his principles and his passions? What personal vision for our country and for the human societies of ordinary people that make up its parts drove him and gave him whatever place he has in our history?
One of the roles of the arts is to recover memory. Actor John Nolan has spent the last few decades of his life keeping the legacy and the specific story of Tommy Douglas alive through theatre. For five years until 2012 he was manager of the Tommy Douglas Centre in Weyburn, Saskatchewan where he
developed a play called “Tommy Douglas: The Arrows of Desire”. In it he becomes Tommy Douglas and tells his story through speeches, hymns, storytelling and a vivid re-capturing of the era and of the man.
In 2012 he relocated to Vancouver Island and has toured the play across the country. (This was an apt move since Tommy Douglas was for a time MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, a fact few of us remember now.)
This Wednesday, April 16, ArtSpring presents Tommy Douglas: The Arrows of Desire starting at 7:30pm.
The title of the play comes from one of Douglas’ many pithy and pointed statements of belief: “Young people are the sacred arrows of our loftiest desires.” Other aphorisms include such famous lines as:
“Watch out for a fellow with an idea.”
“The root of evil is the love of money.”
Wednesday’s play follows on last season’s Call Mr. Robeson, a one-man play be British/Nigerian actor Tayo Aluko which similarly brought to life another major historical figure: singer and social rights activist Paul Robeson.
About Wednesday’s play, the Cowichan News Leader had this to say when the show played in Duncan in 2013: “Actor John Nolan’s reincarnation of Tommy Douglas is must viewing for all Canadians.”
Tickets for the ArtSpring presentation, at $23 for adults and $5 for youth, are available from the Ticket Centre 537-2102 or online.