History in the making: Theatre Calgary premiers Sharon Pollock’s Blow Wind High Water

Blow Wind High Water, by Canadian Playwright Sharon Pollock, is centred on not the first, but so far the worst flood in Calgary’s history.

Theatre Calgary’s (TC) Director of Communications, Christopher Loach, said that one of the reasons 81 year-old Pollock was commissioned for this piece was because they were looking for a play written in a “historic fashion” in preparation for TC’s 50th anniversary, which also happens be the same season as Canada’s 150.

“Pollock is one of the most celebrated Canadian playwrights,” said Loach.

Loach said that New Brunswick born Pollock’s first premier at TC was Walsh in 1973, and that she has a long history working with TC, including directing.

The play focuses on three generations of Albertans and touches on many sensitive issues – yet in humorous ways.

Loach said there have been some references to the similarities of the older character “Gampy”, played by Calgary’s Stephen Hair, and Pollock herself.

Although Canada may be 150 years old, it did not receive full legal autonomy until 1931, which is only 5 years before Pollock was born.

Loach said that Blow Wind High Water has been in the works for “a couple of years, and there is constant tweaking with a new production.

“It was work-shopped twice for this program,” said Loach.

Since the debut there has been some talk in the media, including social media, about the play not being what viewers expected.

“That’s the beauty of a new play, or any challenging work,” said Loach.

TC employee Barbara Brooks said that when she saw the play at the pre-screening she thought some improvements could be made.

“It might be a different show,” said Brooks.

Jewel McIlhargey, a Calgary resident of 45 years and TC season ticket holder, said that although she was anticipating the play to be more about the floods of 2013 she still enjoyed it.

“Not at all what I expected,” said McIlhargey. “But it is great.”

Loach said that plays generate discussion and debate are positive for theatre, and a play that involves history, culture, and destruction is bound to create some controversy.

Loach said that a response such as, “that is way out of my comfort zone,” shows that a play is generating a reaction, and, therefore, capturing the audience’s attention.

Just as there is a challenge in the “evolution of a new play”, Loach said there is also the challenge of keeping up with the evolution of playgoers in Calgary.

Loach said “accessibility” is how TC hopes to draw the åçattention of the new generation of theatregoers by creating work that is appealing to them and “dispelling the misconceptions of theatre.”

Loach said he would like to see live-theatre viewed more similar to film in that people will come last minute and not think they need to dress up in gowns and suits.

“Come as you are,” said Loach.

TC’s Director of Communications poses beside “Gumpy.”
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