The Calithumpians are known to use creativity as a learning tool and five years ago, founder Peter Pacey saw an opportunity.
The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 was approaching, and with it, a chance to bring to life an important part of New Brunswick history.
“We are celebrating this part of our history which was a major step on the road to Canada becoming a nation,” Pacey said.
The Calithumpians received funding from partnership between the federal government and the St. John River Society to fund a traveling production, featuring members of Pacey’s theatre group.
Jake Martin is a veteran of the group, and studied theatre at St. Thomas University.
“It’s about making something that kids and young people would like to see, rather than something that was written specifically for their age group in mind,” said Martin.
Martin, Nicci Blewett, Will Pacey, and Adrienne Fitch are the young actors who will be performing the play.
All four of them, along with St. Thomas student and STUart journal editor Paddy O’Reilly, worked with Pacey in the research and writing process of the project.
The traveling show is called “Marching into History: The Road to Canada Road Show,” which tells the tale of the march of New Brunswick’s 104th Regiment of Foot.
It will be performed in elementary, middle, and high schools all over the province in the coming weeks.
Their goal is not only to educate students, but to instill some pride into the generation coming up in New Brunswick.
The show tells the story of how 600 men from New Brunswick marched nonstop to Kingston, Ontario to help defend it from American forces that were looking to invade.
Over 700 miles were covered on their journey. The winter in which they had marched saw record amounts of snow and the temperatures were frigid. And yet, despite incredible odds and conditions, not a single man deserted and only one died along the way.
A strong believer in nonviolence, Pacey made sure the production would feature no fighting of any kind, with the main conflict instead being between the soldiers and nature.
“There’s nothing more Canadian than having to fight the winter,” Pacey said.
While the show presents a lot of history and information in its hour long run time, it shouldn’t be overwhelming to its young audience.
As with all Calithumpian productions, the members strive to find the perfect balance of education and fun, with a strong emphasis on the latter.
“It’s been really interesting because Pete’s really big on collective creation,” says Martin, a veteran of the group.
“He likes mixing people from all different backgrounds and talents and energies, and what you end up getting is very organic.”
With the beginning of the tour just around the corner, Pacey and the rest of his crew cannot wait to see the reactions of the audiences they will encounter around New Brunswick and for a new generation to learn about the 104th.
“This is one of the things that defined us as a country,” said Pacey. “The story needs to be accessible for everyone, and I think we’ve achieved that here.”
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