Two B.C. pioneers take to the stage at Phoenix Theatre this month

West combines the epic stories of Catherine O’Hare Schubert and Fred Wells

Morgan Cross

News contributor

This month, two tales of B.C.’s pioneering spirits headline together at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. Running Oct. 12 through 21, West combines plays Lady Overlander and The Fred Wells Show, both written by UVic alum Danette Boucher, and performed by Boucher and James Douglas. Produced by Histrionics Theatre Co., West is a double-bill including two of B.C.’s major gold rushes, two monumental points in history and, above all else, two Canadians finding home in the west.

Lady Overlander follows the story of Catherine O’Hare Schubert, who trekked from Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) to Kamloops in 1862 alongside her husband, two young children and baby, while pregnant. Enticed by the Cariboo goldfields, Schubert and her family encountered many obstacles during their journey as overlanders, including the perilous conditions of the Rocky Mountains and Schubert’s giving birth along the Thompson River. The first-person play follows Schubert through her journey to B.C., which was, at the time of the first gold rush, a hub of the modern world and opportunity for a fresh start.

The Fred Wells Show follows a similar path forged over a half century later. Just before the Great Depression hit North America, Fred Wells headed to the Cariboo Mountains on a hunch that gold still remained decades after the first gold rush. Wells was right and, as the saying goes, struck gold. While the rest of the world plummeted into the “dirty ’30s,” struggling to survive by any means possible, the second gold rush boomed, a beacon of prosperity in B.C. Today, the town of Wells, B.C. exists in his name.

Performing at The Phoenix is a coming home for Boucher and Douglas too, both of whom studied and performed in the building during their respective programs. While Douglas takes the stage with few nerves, Boucher feels particularly nervous about returning to her acting roots.

“I’m 51 years old and I’m going to feel like I’m 19 again, doing my first ever main stage production at the Phoenix,” she said, with a laugh. “The stakes felt really high.”

Boucher, today an artistic director, playwright and performer, studied museum theatre during her time at the university, but it wasn’t until she auditioned for a role as Emily Carr after graduation that she found her true passion. Almost 30 years later, she continues to work in heritage theatre.

A general manager, director and performer, Douglas attended UVic for several years between 1992 and 1994 before studying at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He became interested in heritage theatre while fulfilling a summer acting contract in the old mining town of Barkerville, B.C., where he immediately began to shift focus from classical and musical theatre to museum performance.

“When I started working in heritage, I found that what I was most connected with was this idea of people: how they move through the world,” said Boucher. “Right at the time Lady Overlander happened, 1862 … word really got out all over the world about the gold rush in British Columbia. People all over the world started trying to get here, but the idea of world travel was so new that it was really hard to get wherever you were going.”

Lady Overlander has shown in Barkerville and Vernon, among other B.C. locations. The Fred Wells Show began as a site-specific play, featuring at the Sunset Theatre in Wells, which Wells himself was involved in building as the town was constructed. Since then, the play has gone on to show as far away as New Mexico, proving its appeal to all audiences.

“That’s the thing about heritage theatre, too. You’re always trying to find the universal in the specific,” said Boucher. “As James and I always say, every small story is part of a bigger story is part of a bigger story.”

West at the Phoenix Theatre embodies two epic quests for home, and two vital points in history where the gaze of the world shifted to British Columbia.

Ticket information is available at finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix.

editor@oakbaynews.com

Just Posted

Sooke Christmas hampers to be handed out Sunday

Over 400 hampers have already been prepared

Sooke Rotary Club raises money for Salvation Army

Donations will be collected until Dec. 24

Police wait on autopsy findings on human foot

Sooke RCMP are waiting for autopsy findings before determing if a human… Continue reading

Lost Victoria: Story of the Crystal Palace

Historian Stuart Stark launches book about iconic Oak Bay structure that was lost to flames

Victoria rental prices declining, according to national listing website

The median price of a one-bedroom suite dropped almost five per cent in December

Kind Kids Club hands crafts cards for Oak Bay Lodge residents

Additional funds raised go toward gifts for the pediatric wing at Victoria General Hospital

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

Island entering the peak of flu season

Island Health says flu shots the best prevention against the virus

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

AHUS patient Shantee Anaquod is home for Christmas

Less than a month after receiving first dose of $750K drug, 23 year old healthy enough to go home

Moose calves rescued in northern B.C. are ‘golden nuggets:’ researcher

Calves discovered near Prince George in late May. Mother had been killed by a car

Most Read