Sheldon Sveinson’s smile broadened as the standing ovation continued. A published author, and now playwright, he had worked for several years to arrive at this time and place.
It was Saturday night, Aug. 19, 2017, and the audience in the Lac du Bonnet Community Centre was applauding an original musical written by Sheldon Sveinson and based on the history of the local area.
The Saga of JD McArthur and the Winnipeg River Princess was performed four times that weekend, each time to audiences who were both surprised and impressed.
The play, one of a series of events which celebrated the 100th birthday of the Rural Municipality of Lac du Bonnet throughout 2017, captured the spirit of the early 1900’s when the area was first developed.
It also demonstrated the sometimes untapped and often underappreciated reservoir of creative enterprise in rural Manitoba.
The play tells the story of JD McArthur, a larger-than-life entrepreneur often credited with establishing the community of Lac du Bonnet.
While there is no doubt that his talents as a developer, building railways, for example, contributed to the growth of the area, the play asks whether there was a darker side to his character and actions which continues to have an impact even a century later.
Gail Mooney, President of The Eureka Group (www.eurekaplayers.ca) which produced the play commented: “The JD story is epic…If you love history and legends, you’ll love this play.”
Her prediction was proven true by the reaction of many in attendance, including blogger, Alex Krosney, who posted on the Travel Manitoba website: “We were blown away by the talented community performers, the original score played by a live band, and even a full-sized steam engine replica that rolled through the crowd.” (http://manitobahot.com/2017/08/five-ways-to-find-art-in-eastern-manitoba/).
That same weekend in August, another long awaited creative venture made an appearance in Eastman. The two day Boreal Shores Arts Tour (www.borealartstour.ca) featured 34 artists at a variety of locations from West Hawk Lake in the east to Grand Marais to the north and many points in between.
Led by Lac du Bonnet artist, Janice Charko (www.flightsoffibre.com), the organizing group had worked for 15 months to create this first time event.
Visitors to the sites enjoyed not only the beauty and creativity of the work they saw displayed but also the natural beauty of the region as they travelled from one community to another.
Participating artists were also enthusiastic about this unusual opportunity to showcase their talents in the area where they all lived.
It’s no surprise, then, that the dates have already been set for the second Boreal Shores Art Tour – August 18 and 19, 2018.
What made the sunny weekend of August 19 and 20 so special in this beautiful part of the province?
Credit is due to the artists, the creators, the innovators, who reflected the beauty of the area in their work and who took the risk of showcasing it in their homes and towns in new exciting ways. Visitors and audience members, some of whom were neighbours, relatives and friends, enthusiastically did their part in contributing to the success of both events.
And, finally, neither event would have been possible without the support of the wider community. As Alex Krosney writes: “From municipal governments to restauranteurs and senior centres to hotels, there is support for the arts everywhere in Eastern Manitoba.” (http://manitobahot.com/2017/08/five-ways-to-find-art-in-eastern-manitoba/).