Play Reading: "Roughing It In the Bush"

BTG Fundraising Event

Sunday November 17, 2019 @ 2 PM

Pinnacle Playhouse

adapted for the stage by Marianne Ackerman

Tickets: $5
For tickets call 613-967-1442.

About: Roughing It In the Bush and this play reading

Susanna Moodie's personality and writing have been part of my imaginative life since my high school days in Belleville. She lived here for many years. Her house still stands on Bridge Street west. Her footprints are all over this city.

Picking up her work again after many years, I was moved by the brutal honesty and energy of her story. Roughing It In the Bush begins in 1832 after a tortuous sea voyage from England, and ends on New Year's Day, 1840, as Susanna and her five young children pile into a sleigh bound for Belleville, where her husband Dunbar has landed a job as sheriff.

Having barely survived pioneer travails, she begins her books with a warning to like-minded souls against following in her footsteps. Somehow, I think she overlooks her own greatest achievement - lived experience: how poverty and suffering chipped away at class-ridden prejudices and cold judgements, teaching her the true value of character, and the blessing of compassion. The climax of her story is a mad act of phenomenal generosity. Susanna and her friend Emilia walk nine miles through frozen fields to bring food to a destitute woman and her children, and walk back home the same day.

Roughing It In the Bush is an emigrant story, told from the point of view of a newcomer - a perspective I believe is worth revisiting today, as we welcome a new generation, determined to rebuild their lives here. The tremendous community effort to help out Syrian refugees comes to mind.

Susanna Moodie's story is one they need to know. Her story personifies the Canadian experience, our unlikely mission against the odds. Her most famous book is a powerful account of what our ancestors went through in their struggle to turn the bush into a clearing, replete with churches, libraries, schools, theatres, art galleries – everything Susanna gave up by leaving home in England for the wilds of Ontario. A prickly personality with a keen eye for human foibles and a terrific sense of humour, she remained true to herself, to her passion for writing.

I am grateful to the Belleville Theatre Guild and all of the actors who, over the past three summers, have helped me adapt this amazing book for the stage. My hope is that in the not-to-distant future we can find an opportunity and resources to bring a full production, complete with costumes, sets, costumes and music, to the Belleville public and theatre-goers elsewhere.

Marianne Ackerman