Goderich Little Theatre, under the guidance of Director Duncan McGregor of Blyth, is looking at the Great Depression through a very local lens in its production of Ten Lost Years.
The play, which is a heavily-modified version of the 1970 production staged by Toronto Workshop Productions, will play at The Livery in Goderich starting Nov. 1 and running to Nov. 10.
Ten Lost Years focuses on the depression, and McGregor first saw it when Toronto Workshop Productions toured the show across Canada.
“I saw the play back in the 1970s that was put together from the book Ten Lost Years: 1929-1939,” he said, refering to the tome penned by Canadian journliast and author Barry Broadfoot. “The book had just come out, so they did their homework and put it together.”
McGregor said the theatre company didn’t know how well received the play would be, but after touring Canada for two years, it has become a classic.
While that script was the starting point for the Goderich Little Theatre’s production, it’s been dramatically changed to include four stories from Huron County.
“What I like about what we have planned to do is that there are a number of stories that involve children,” he said.
McGregor said that, while the original play included 10 adults, six men and four women, his production includes a cast of 30 with nearly a 50/50 male-female split. Twelve of the actors are also younger actors, he said, with the youngest being 10 and the older youth actors being between 16 and 17 years old.
The play has been worked on for awhile, McGregor said.
“It takes a long time to to do the interviews, put them together and workshop them,” he said. “We have four stories we’ve added.”
McGregor said that between one-quarter and one-third of the entire play is changed or newly added to help focus on Huron County.
Some of the stories come from places like Goderich, but some are very close to home for McGregor, including one story based on the recently deceased Blyth resident Janis Vodden’s life and stories from his wife Lynda’s father’s life.
“Janis was born in Blyth and she had a wonderful story from when she was four years old,” McGregor said. “The girl who is playing her is 10-years-old, but it will work. [Janis’ husband] Brock was very helpful in crafting that scene and he’s quite pleased with it.”
Ralph Foster, Lynda’s father, was a teenager in the depression and lived to nearly 102 years old. McGregor said that, even later in life, Foster had a good recollection of how the events around that time unfolded and was able to share detailed recollections about it.
Another story in the play focuses on Harry Boyle who wrote Mostly in Clover, which was adapted for the Blyth Festival stage in its very first season.
McGregor said a lot of the stories feature families or individuals who left families because they felt they were taking a place at the table.
All the stories share one common theme, McGregor said: resilience.
“You take a disaster like that and the people who survive are the ones who look at it in a different way,” he said. “Sometimes, that was because these people had a sense of humour during it.”
Unfortunately, the end of The Depression wasn’t brought about by some great understanding of human social aspects, McGregor said.
“World War II basically put a stop to it,” he said.
Aside from local stories, the play features some local talent, including members of the Cherrey family from Blyth and Steve Dawe, from the Blyth Print Shop, and his daughter Ava.
Steve Cooke, a former resident of Blyth and long-time member of McGregor’s shows also takes part in the play.
For more information, visit www.thelivery.ca.