Special to the Tribune/Weekend Advisor
The Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s production of The Lodge, written by Gwen Pharis Ringwood begins a three-week run starting March 8.
A noted Canadian playwright, Gwen lived the second half of her life in the Cariboo with her physician husband Dr. Barney Ringwood.
Already a published playwright when she moved to Williams Lake in 1953, her writing from then until her death in 1984 was deeply influenced by her discovery of the surrounding land and the First Nations culture.
She was deeply influenced by the generosity of spirit of the First Nations people she met, mentored, and taught over a period of years.
Many of the (now) elders from local communities participated in the plays she produced in the original Gwen Ringwood Theatre in Boitanio Park.
In addition, she introduced some of the current members of the WLST to theatre in these productions of her later plays.
However, The Lodge was not one of these local productions.
Vancouver Little Theatre produced an earlier version in 1976.
Gwen revised The Lodge several times.
We are mounting the version that is in the 1982 publication of The Collected Plays of Gwen Pharis Ringwood, which has never been seen anywhere.
We are pleased to offer it this season to the community and surrounding area that inspired its creation.
The play’s fictional Wilderness Lodge was modelled on the beautiful Chilcotin Lodge at Riske Creek.
The neighbouring Tl’esqox (Toosey) Reserve is close by.
There is also a natural soda spring that figures in the play. Gwen and Barney Ringwood first discovered the Chilcotin Lodge in 1953 when they became good friends with Tom and Marion Rafferty and their children.
They were also close friends with Wilf and Dru Hodgson, who later purchased and ran the Chilcotin Lodge for some years.
The Ringwood family members have many happy memories of exploring these parts of the Chilcotin.
Dr. Ringwood enjoyed providing medical support at many Riske Creek Rodeo events.
The play is a gentle, but pointed reminder to the non-Native parts of our social structure that the influence, generosity, and assistance of the First Nations peoples, (in this case the Tsilqot’in) to immigrant settlers eased the challenges of living in this area.
This was especially true in the early days of European contact.
It remained true in the 60’s and 70’s before general electricity, easy mobility, and telephone communication were readily available to rural settlers.
Set in the 1970s, The Lodge addresses many family, societal, and land use issues that were current then and are still not fully resolved today.
This play reveals within one family the diverse points of view and rivalry that contribute to emotional conflict and eventual growth in each family member.
The family Matriarch, Jasmine Daravalley, has gathered her children and grandchildren and their spouses for her 80th birthday.
Gwen’s inspiration for this strong character was no one Cariboo artist, but a collage of the many talented and committed artists who were then and remain today a vibrant part of the Cariboo/Chilcotin cultural richness.
Jasmine invites the family to Wilderness Lodge, which has been recently purchased by her youngest granddaughter and husband.
While together, the family struggles to navigate the aging of their eccentric Elder, whose life choices continue to shape their individual identities and stimulate personal growth.
This production will stimulate thought, touch hearts, and tickle funny bones.
The Lodge is on stage at the Studio Theatre in the former Glendale Elementary School building March 8-11, 15-18 and 22-25. Tickets are available at Kit and Kaboodle, The Open Book and on-line at www.wlstudiotheatre.com.
Editors note: Sophia Schneider is Gwen’s daughter and is directing The Lodge for the Studio Theatre. The production stars Karen MacDonald as Alice Daravalley Hobbs; Jay Goddard as Eardley Hobbs; Kathleen MacDonald as Shelley Hobbs Marsdon; Rohan Keenan as Allan Marsdon; Pauline Bob-King as Marybelle; Michael Rawluk as Major Roland Anderson; Katalin Szaurer as Connie Daravalley Anderson; Chris Armstrong as Robin Daravalley; Sharon Hoffman as Jasmine Daravalley; and Jamie Regier as Chief Jimmy Lashaway.