Here is what DoLL instructor Scott Sharplin had to say about his production of the Vern Thiessen play.
Canada's involvement in World War I marked a turning point in our country's sense of nationhood. Before 67,000 men gave their lives between 1914 and 1918, most Canadians identified more with their countries of ancestral origin; they were immigrant British, Scottish, French, etc. The geography of Canada was simply too huge to be thought of as a cultural unit. But after WWI, and particularly the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Canadians had something in common; they had fought and died together, and this sacrifice transformed a vast, multicultural country into a nation.
Vern Thiessen's play "Vimy" comments on this macrocosmic process in an intimate and highly theatrical way. In a field hospital in France, one sleepless Nova Scotian nurse tends to four wounded Canadian soldiers after the battle for Vimy Ridge. The soldiers, who hail from all corners of Canada, are united not only in their love for Labatt's beer and hockey, but also in their trauma. Using the multiple subjectivity of a postmodern memory play, Thiessen gradually reveals how ordinary men and women followed their dreams into the nightmare of war, losing pieces of themselves even as they become part of a greater cause.
I was born and raised in Alberta, and only recently moved to Cape Breton. In the first year following my arrival, I felt as much culture shock as one would likely feel moving to Europe or Australia. Sometimes, if seemed as if Atlantic Canada had nothing in common with the Prairies, except perhaps a mutual grudge against Ottawa. I suspect my experience is a common one; we tend to notice differences before we spot similarities, and it's easy to get hung up on regional differences, just as we often fall prey to prejudices based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. Fortunately for me, my work on "Vimy" has helped me to identify the fundamental sameness of Canadians from different regions -- not only in 1917, when the play is set, but also in the present day.
Vern Thiessen's portrayal of World War I is unflinching. "Vimy" is neither an anti-war play nor a patriotic piece; instead, it places the horrors of war in the context of memory and imagination, and lets the audience decide if the victory is worth the cost. Although many of the characters reach the story's end without finding closure, it is possible for a modern audience to extrapolate their narratives, and to imagine how these damaged but united veterans, and thousands like them, could return to build a country whose military mandate has predominantly been one of peacekeeping, not conquest.
Just as the soldiers at Vimy had only three months to train for their dangerous mission, this group of young artists has, in three months of rehearsal, gone from rough recruits to skilled and hardy heroes. It has been a privilege to work with such a dedicated and talented cast & crew on my first Boardmore production.