SUMMERSIDE – Imagine having a dream job waiting in Halifax, but with your only way of getting there from P.E.I. being a dinky little ice boat hauled and sailed across the Nurthumberland Strait in the dead of winter.
Voice actors read their lines during a recording of a radio drama at the Eptek Art and Culture Centre in Summerside Sunday evening. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
To make matters worse?
During the crossing, the winds change, a storm rages, and you and your fellow travelers are stranded for hours on a piece of ice, floating half-way between P.E.I. and New Brunswick.
Such a fate befell Captain James Walsh many years ago. He was trying to get to Halifax to serve as first mate on a ship and he made it half way to New Brunswick before a storm forced his party to turn back from their crossing.
Such a thing is unthinkable today – but 150 years ago? Those were just the breaks.
And those days were relived to a certain extent Sunday evening at the Eptek Art and Culture Centre in Summerside.
Wyate Heritage Properties Inc. recorded a new set of its ongoing radio drama series at the centre, in front of a live audience.
More than 16 voice actors and several sound effect artists gathered in front of a room full of people and helped them relive some of these snippets of Island life.
The live plays are recorded and made available through the Properties’ website at www.wyattheritagepropertiesinc.com.
Lori Ellis, with the heritage properties, said that their radio drama series have been very successful.
“We took this route because we were looking for a vehicle to continue our work in storytelling, and we figured radio dramas would allow us to make a departure from the traditional oral storytelling that we were doing in front of an audience,” she said.
There were six new stories recorded Sunday evening, which will bring the total number up to 16.
Funding for the radio drama projects is provided by Canadian Heritage.
“I think it’s one of the more fun projects that we do, because it’s taking something that’s kind of old and make it new again. So the audience kind of gets into it, the provide applause so the actors really get into it – and it’s a lot of fun,” she said.
“I think it’s just something a little different that people are liking, so we’re going to keep doing it,” said Ellis.
Marlene Campbell, also with Wyate Heritage Properties Inc., wrote the scripts for the new dramas and has been involved in the projects since the beginning.
It’s her understanding that radio is experiencing something of a revival – with radio dramas going along for the drive.
She hopes to capitalize on that and use them as a way to introduce people to local history.
But to do that she needs interesting stories – and there is no shortage if you look hard enough, she said.
Most of the ideas come from researchers at the MacNaught History Centre in Summerside, who forward along interesting tidbits to her.
“We kind of just go through the newspapers and see if something really strikes our fancy we say ‘that could make a good radio drama,’” said Campbell.
“Plus, some of the things, I mean history repeats itself over and over again. So, I mean one of the ones we’re doing tonight is about bicycles – it’s just so relevant to today. It’s about them wanting their share of the road – back in 1895 – and it’s the horse and wagon they’re arguing with about wanting their share of the road,” she said.
“It’s all about bringing history alive in an exciting way for young and old.”
The dramas recorded Sunday evening should be online before the end of October.