Blyth Festival seeks 'Boot' stories - Feb. 1, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt is on the hunt for the community’s best stories about the fabled Blyth Inn for this season’s collective creation, Wing Night at The Boot.
Similar to the creation of The Pigeon King last year, the writing of the play relies heavily on personal accounts and tales from those who have lived through the situation. With Wing Night at The Boot, Garratt says that just about anyone who’s visited Blyth in the last 140 years has spent at least some time at the bar and he’s looking for any and all stories that might go into the new Blyth Festival play.
Garratt said that every time he or Associate Artistic Director Severn Thompson has spoken to someone about their time at the establishment, it has “opened a window” to another story that they need to chase down. The wealth of information, he said, has been overwhelming, but those who are working on the play are eager to keep hearing more stories.
One story the creators have unearthed recently tells the tale of the very early days of the Inn, Garratt said, when there was a carpeted area for women and chaperones and floor for the single men.
Thompson has been consulting extensively with village historians Brock and Janis Vodden as well in hopes of incorporating historical stories about the restaurant as well.
Garratt said he’s hoping for a broad scope of stories. Whether they’re from over 100 years ago or from last week, he said he wants to hear them.
The building does hold a rich history in the village, Garratt said, in that it has been standing in Blyth for 140 years and, in many ways, the village has been build around the Blyth Inn.
It has also served as an example of the symbiotic relationship the theatre has with its home village. Not only has the theatre helped shape the village over the years, he said, but the village has helped to shape the theatre as well.
The concept for a play about the Blyth Inn came to Garratt recently as a result of a gift from Paul Thompson, his mentor and one of the great Canadian theatre minds of this generation.
Thompson gifted Garratt a print of Michael Ondaatje’s poem entitled “The Concessions” which makes mention of the Blyth Inn. The poem is printed over a map of Huron County.
The gift got Garratt thinking about putting the story of the Blyth Inn on the Memorial Hall stage and he says it only makes sense to do so.
The poem tells of actors from the Blyth Festival and village farmers sitting together having drinks and watching a band together. That relationship, Garratt said, is the very foundation of the Blyth Festival and it’s what makes the theatre so special.
A group of actors who will be working on the project will be coming to Blyth on Feb. 20-24 to work on conducting interviews and collecting research for the play.
To share your stories of the Blyth Inn with Garratt and the other actors working on this season’s Wing Night at The Boot, call the Festival office at 519-523-9300.