Power and Glory. It’s a powerful combination, with playwright Tracey Power’s compelling tale of Canadiana called Glory finally making its way to the stage at the Chemainus Theatre, starting Sept. 16.
The story of Ontario’s Preston Rivulettes is surprisingly little-known in this hockey-mad country. The Rivulettes women’s hockey team set out to prove in 1933 that hockey wasn’t just a sport for men.
Through her extensive research, Power brings the inspirational true story of the team to life. The Rivulettes won four Dominion Championships and ten Ontario titles between 1931 and 1940, with a winning record of more than 95 per cent, unmatched in the history of women’s hockey.
Power, who’s originally from Comox, is in Chemainus to conduct the choreography while James MacDonald directs the show.
“It came from a photo I found in a book of black and white photos,” said Power of the first step that led her on the path toward creating the play. “I wanted to make sure I knew as much of the story as I could possibly find out.”
Power and MacDonald are a power couple in the theatre industry with numerous productions to their credit.
Glory has been garnering considerable attention in its limited appearances to date. The first draft was ready in 2017 and the performance debuted in 2018 during a Winter Olympics year at the Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops where MacDonald is the artistic director.
“After that, we did a tour of the same production, spring and summer 2019,” said MacDonald.
Every production was slightly different, with a combination of varying casts.
Artistic director Mark DuMez was anxious to bring the show to the Chemainus Theatre and it was originally on the ill-fated 2020 schedule eventually wiped out by COVID. He’s a big fan of Power’s staging of interesting stories and had it ready for the lineup whenever full-fledged shows returned and the time is here.
“Through creativity, tenacity and an understanding of seizing opportunity, she has brought us a gem of a story,” DuMez noted. “Its innovative staging of the hockey games uses dance and physical theatre forms that are new to our stage and compelling. And central to the story is a group of women who rise from adversity to claim the ice beneath them – a celebration of a great Canadian game in theatrical style.”
“We were always excited about coming to the Island,” said MacDonald. “Even before we did the first show, Mark expressed interest.”
The innovative and unique performance is sure to catch on with audiences.
“Hopefully, there will be productions outside Canada,” said Power. “There’s still cities (in Canada) we’d love to bring the show to. It’s sure nice to be here on the Island and close to family and friends.”
As a big sports fan herself, “I couldn’t believe we didn’t know this part of our history,” she added. “As an artist, I wanted to bring it to the forefront and spread the word.”
“Tracey, right from the beginning, wanted to tell it with hockey as the choreography,” MacDonald pointed out. “It’s got all the power of a great game and it’s got this artistry in a great dance. It’s also got a lot of humour in it. It’s quite moving.”
He added it’s an important story in so many ways.
“It’s also the story of camaraderie of people coming together in a small town. It’s really about community and people living together and coming together.”
For those reasons, it clearly isn’t just a sports story, said Power.
“I think I always like to say if you’re not a hockey fan, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to completely relate and get caught up in this story. It’s a universal story in having people on your side.”
“It’s more than a hockey story,” stressed MacDonald. “It’s a great underdog sports story we all love, but it’s a great Canadian story, the fact they were the winningest in Canadian sports history at a time when a women’s hockey league went coast-to-coast in the 1930s.”
The cast includes: Brian Linds as coach Herb Fach; Kate Dion-Richard as Helen Schmuck and Becky Frohlinger as Margaret Schmuck, who are definitely terrific players and schmucks in name only; Emma Rendell as Hilda Ranscombe and Morgan Yamada as goalie Nellie Ranscombe.
It’s the second time doing the show for Rendell, 31, who’s from Victoria. She performed in Glory during February this year in Prince George and said she only learned about the story when she auditioned.
“I’m astonished I didn’t know about this story and it was so new to me and so extraordinary what these women did at the time,” Rendell said.
She played sports as a kid and has learned some moves from the experience.
“The play is about so much more than hockey, I found out,” she stressed. “It’s been really fun to learn how to play in a fake way.”
Costume designer Cindy Wiebe did an amazing job putting together the team uniforms. The boots the players wear look very much like skates as they glide across the stage.
And the transformation of the stage to a mini hockey rink by the stage and construction crew is incredible.
You’ll have to act fast to get tickets for the show since it’s only on until Oct. 9.
Appropriately, the accompanying artist show at the Theatre Gallery features works by legendary Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Richard Brodeur.