A dramatic production evoking the calamitous human cost of war will be staged on the Sunshine Coast this weekend, which also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Next of Kin, produced by playwright and actor Caitlin Hicks, will be a voice-and-music performance at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt on Saturday, Nov. 10. It features Hicks, along with actors Pat Dorval and Steve Schwabl, musician Gordon Halloran, and readers Mike Oswald and former shíshálh chief Calvin Craigan, who will lend his voice to the stories of indigenous veterans.
The material will be drawn from some of Hicks’s writing along with many excerpts from Vancouver Island writer Jacqueline Carmichael’s newly released book, Tweets from the Trenches: Little True Stories of Life and Death on the Western Front.
Hicks met Carmichael while doing a writers’ workshop earlier this year in Port Alberni. Hicks had been thinking about mounting a production around Remembrance Day but didn’t know about the new book when she invited Carmichael to come to the Sunshine Coast.
“She agreed to come over and then said, ‘By the way, I have this book called Tweets from the Trenches.’ I said ‘What?’ So, it was very serendipitous,” Hicks recalls.
Due to prior commitments, Carmichael will not be at the Saturday performance but excerpts from Tweets from the Trenches will comprise much of the show’s first act, which deals almost entirely with the 1914-18 conflict.
Carmichael began researching the book in 2010 after a family member gave her a collection of papers belonging to her paternal grandfather, who fought in the war. The text unfolds chronologically from 1914, using some 150 excerpts, including poems, letters, journal entries, memoirs, news reports, and photos. Though tweets are referred to in the title, the book is only partly made up of historical “tweets,” which Carmichael crafted as creative non-fiction.
“I didn’t feel it would be an enduring book if I did it all in tweets,” Carmichael said in a telephone interview. “But I did wonder, what if they had our technology back then, little steampunk cellphones?”
Carmichael noted that the First World War era had its own social media, just much slower.
“Two billion pieces of mail crossed the English Channel from the Front during that war. Two billion! And that paper still exists – the equivalent to their Twitter trail and Facebook posts. They are still out there and we can learn about them,” she said.
The second act of the Saturday production will cover the Second World War, which will include a moving personal story from Hicks’s own family history, plus dramatized accounts from Sunshine Coast locals who lived through the conflict.
The doors at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 to 9 p.m. show. Tickets are $20 at the door. You can learn more about Carmichael’s book at tweetsfromthetrenches.com.