Theatre mines colourful history

From chocolate wars to brideships loaded with women

Vancouver Island has a rich history with well known tales of fur trading, gold miners, maritime adventures and government officials, but what about chocolate bars, brideships and English gentlemen?

These little known stories are being told in a live theatre production inside one of the most historic buildings in Victoria on July 13 at 7 p.m.

Seeds and Salts Theatre Company and the Bamberton Historical Society are presenting Bedtime Stories: Dreaming of Vancouver Island in the historic 19th century Vice Admiralty Courtroom inside the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.

Still in use as a tax court to this day, this courtroom where “hanging judge” Chief Justice Matthew Begbie presided was once the Supreme Court of B.C.

Now museum staff are adding a stage to this historic space to help showcase some of the most unforgettable stories that will leave you thinking about what it means to be an Islander.

“We pick four true stories or events that happened that are well researched so we’re not going on hearsay,” says Maureen Alexander, president, founder and manager of the Bamberton Historical Society. “We chose stories that most people don’t know, but have an emotional element that will resonate with the audience. It’s part of our mandate to take Island history to Islanders,” she says.

The play, which is suitable for an all-ages audience, will run just over an hour with no intermission. It’s a fast-moving production featuring four actors and four stories with minimal props.

“We don’t do re-enactments. What we do is unique. There’s no other historical theatre on the Island,” Alexander says.

The stories include The Chocolate Bar War of 1947, when children in Ladysmith protested over a three cent increase on the price of chocolate bars, it got national media attention; Strathcona 100, a tale about the people involved in the expedition to discover B.C.’s first provincial park; The Second Son,  while the eldest son in a British household gets the inheritance, the second son got sent to Canada to help colonize the new territory; and Brideships— a tale from the mid 1800s when the Fraser River gold rush turned sleepy Victoria  into the “Wild West,” and there were about 100 men for every woman. Find out what happened when the United Kingdom was asked to send boatloads of willing and “God fearing” women to help settle the men down.

“The courtroom used to be used as a theatre back in the ’70s,” says MaryAnne Dieno, communications and events co-ordinator at the Maritime Museum. “Brideships is one of the stories that is very telling of the maritime history in Victoria so we thought it would be a great fit.”

TIckets are $10 and are available in the Crow’s Nest Gift Shop in the Maritime Museum.

Written by Justin Skye Conley, directed by Michelle Alexander and featuring actors Lindsay Detta, Ming Hudson, David Gingerich and Denise Cedeno, Dreaming of Vancouver Island will also be making a stop at Saanich on Sunday, July 10 at 7pm at St. Stephen’s Church Hall, 7921 St. Stephen’s Road (off Mt.Newton X Road), Saanichton. M

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