Given that I am barricaded at home during yet another snow day in Nova Scotia, I feel it is only fitting to write a blog post on summer productivity as some sort of ode to warmer weather. This summer, after an enriching week with Karis Shearer at UBC Okanagan’s TEMiC, I drove to Naramata as a pilgrimage to the location of Carroll Aikins’s Home Theatre—a theatre built above a fruit packing and storage facility in 1920 that was devoted to training Canadian actors.
I have been researching Aikins in large part because of the uniqueness of his play The God of Gods, which premiered in Birmingham, England in 1919 to the praise of theatre critics. The God of Gods seems to be the little play that could: it enjoyed a second mounting at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1921, came to Toronto’s Hart House Theatre for their 1922-23 season, then was produced in London, England in 1931. The play’s success abroad is by no means its only notable element; it is also a modernist play that engages in primitivism, anti-war sentiments, Nietzschean philosophy, and theosophy. And while Aikins is little know in today’s theatre circles, this seems to be far from true for many of the people in Naramata (even if the street signs offer variant spellings of his name).
Naramata’s Heritage Museum welcomed me with open arms; the elders regaled me with stories of the Aikins family, shared relevant local histories, and offered valuable resources (books, photographs, contact information for surviving Aikins family members). Craig Henderson, in particular, was incredibly helpful and acted as a tour guide, taking me to Aikins’s old home, Aikins’s Loop (where the building that housed the Home theatre can be found), and the remains of the Home Theatre. I have kept in touch with Henderson and he is hoping to produce one of Aikins’s other plays in the near future—a potential venture that nicely integrates my experience at TEMiC and DEMiC with my work on Aikins because a recording of a production of one of Aikins’s plays would make for an excellent online teaching or research tool.
Interviews with local historians and theatre practitioners helped to explain many of the allusions to historical figures and local folklore in Aikins’s plays. This trip solidified the value and necessity of qualitative research for my field—theatre, after all, occurs off the page and it is only in meeting with artists and visiting the homeland of Aikins and his Home Theatre that The God of Gods becomes a living piece of art.
(By Kailin Wright)
You must be logged in to post a comment.