Show aims to bring history of Tommy Douglas to life

This presentation is being brought to the community as a “living museum” fundraiser for the Kaatza Station Museum,

The one-man show, Tommy Douglas: the Arrows of Desire, returns to the Cowichan Valley for three performances Nov. 6, 7 and 8, on the Lake Cowichan School stage.

This presentation is being brought to the community as a “living museum” fundraiser for the Kaatza Station Museum, because “our museums remind us of our rich heritage,” said actor John Nolan.

He portrays Douglas in this Phantom Poets Touring Company production and wants to breathe life into the Douglas legend the way museums breathe life into history.

“We must honour our past by learning from history. Getting things right about our past is the key to making the judicious choices necessary to influence, positively, an uncertain future,” Nolan said.

The show was last presented in the Valley in 2013.

Many Cowichan Valley residents will have met Douglas, the revered Canadian leader who is the subject of the play, because he finished his parliamentary career by representing the old riding of Nanaimo, Cowichan and the Islands in Ottawa.

Asked how he prepares to take on the Douglas persona, Nolan said, “I’ve read nine biographies, and researched Douglas for more than 20 years. It’s all about channeling Douglas during the play.

Without that resource which museums so richly provide it would be difficult for us to honour any of our ancestors.”

Douglas died in February 1986 and his landmark progressive ideas, such as universal health care, are still the watermark for solving some of society’s critical problems with a humanitarian focus, according to Nolan.

Douglas’s route to fame was unusual.

Three quarters of a century ago as a young Baptist minister he found a home at a church in Weyburn, SK.

The stock market had crashed and the Saskatchewan population, silenced by starvation and deprivation, found a powerful voice and a passionate advocate in Tommy Douglas.

After seven years as a Saskatchewan MP, Douglas made history in becoming the first major social democratic government leader in North America as his CCF party swept to victory in 1944.

Nolan founded Phantom Poets in 2004, opening with the world premiere of Tommy Douglas: The Arrows of Desire in Weyburn that same year.

It’s been worth the effort ever since, he said.

“Tommy Douglas belongs to the ages. His undaunted dedication, self-sacrifice and humanitarian gifts to the people of Canada are legendary. There are many great Canadians worth writing about but there is no one who comes close to matching the criteria of personality, character, eloquence, accomplishment, and longevity in the face of powerful opposition in men, than Tommy Douglas.”

This one-man play, which is presented in a story-telling format, offers him a chance to open the eyes of a new generation to the accomplishments of a celebrated Canadian.

The shows on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7 start at 7 p.m. with a matinee performance on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Adult tickets are $20 each. Seniors and students can get in for $15. Purchase tickets at the Kaatza Museum at Saywell Park on South Shore Road in Lake Cowichan or call 250-749-6172 for more information.