Writing

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MAKING HISTORY COME ALIVE

For more than 30 years, Conrad Boyce has specialized in bringing historical characters to the stage. Drawing on his training as a journalist, and his long experience in every aspect of the theatre, he has created plays in a variety of formats, designed for a variety of venues and audiences, and set in a wide diversity of eras and places.

More recently, he has developed a growing reputation as a non-fiction author, specializing in the stories of fascinating historical sites.

Conrad will work with your community group to develop just the right vehicle to dramatically interpret a site, character or event from your past. Please peruse the following list of past projects for an idea of what he can do. We would be delighted to provide references for each of them.

PLAYS FROM THE PAST
  • Paradise Alley (1979)  A three-character play about the fascinating women who populated Dawson City’s red light district during the Klondike Gold Rush. Written and first staged at Dawson’s historic opera house, the Palace Grand Theatre.
  • The Bohemian (1981)  A one-man musical about the experiences of an ambulance driver during the First World War, based on the book “Ballads of a Bohemian”, by Robert Service. It sets many of Service’s poems to music, and is accompanied by piano, guitar and flute. First staged at the Guild Hall in Whitehorse, Yukon. Revived for a summer’s performances in Uxbridge, Ontario in 2014.
  • The Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill (1982)  A play about the copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona, featuring vignettes taken from the pages of its newspapers. Written for a cast of about a dozen. Before it could be staged, its proposed venue was converted to another use.
  • The Warehouse Revue (1983)  A short musical play written for cruise ship passengers who briefly visited the Yukon after docking in Skagway, Alaska. They came to be dined and entertained at a converted warehouse in Carcross, Yukon.  The play, for two actors and a pianist, introduced them to the Yukon and the gold rush in about 30 minutes. Beautiful Dreamer
  • Beautiful Dreamer (1984)  A biographical play about American composer Stephen Foster, using many of Foster’s own songs.  Researched at the Foster Library in his home town of Pittsburgh. Performed by two actors with piano accompaniment.  First performed at a dinner theatre in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
  • Eldorado (1985)  A two-man play, set in a Klondike cabin and using many of the Yukon poems of Robert Service. First staged at a dinner theatre in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Later adapted as a one-man play (the second man becoming invisible!) which you’ll find described on our “Performing” page.
  • The Arizona Charlie Meadows Show  (1981-1986)  A two-person show designed as part of a travelling promotion for the Alaska and Yukon departments of tourism.  The show travelled to RV parks throughout  the American southwest, urging audiences to bring their rigs up the Alaska Highway.  Arizona Charlie was a wild-west showman who built Dawson’s Palace Grand Theatre.Arizona Charlie
  • The Eldorado Show (1987-1989)  A four-actor variety show using the poems of Robert Service and the songs of the gold rush era. It was aimed at the summer tourist trade, and presented on a custom-built stage at a Whitehorse RV park.
  • La Siege Inferno (1993) A re-creation, based on a historic playbill, of the variety show which opened Dawson City’s Palace Grand Theatre in 1899. It played in repertory at the Palace Grand with:
  • The Trials of Suwanee McPhee (1993) An original 90s-style musical melodrama, recounting the journey of eight fascinating characters on the Trail of ’98 to the Klondike.  The score combined original music with adaptations of gold rush era songs.
  • Life Cycle (1994-95)  An original half-hour presentation, using live music and dance, about the Yukon seasons. It was created as the Yukon’s cultural contingent to the Arctic Winter Games in 1994, and again to the Canada Winter Games in 1995.
  • The Town That Was Born Lucky (1996)   The musical story of Medicine Hat, Alberrta, from the perspective of Rudyard Kipling, an early visitor. Performed for visitors in the summer of 1996 at the Medicine Hat Public Library.
  • Glory Road (1997)  A companion piece to “Paradise Alley” (see above), a one-man one-act about an American Civil War veteran who comes north for the Klondike Gold Rush. First staged at the Music Hall in Uxbridge, Ontario.
  • The Fabulous Victory Follies (1998) A re-creation of a First World War Victory Bond concert, with music from the period as well as some original music.  News of the end of the war actually comes during the show! Staged as part of a four-show summer repertory at the Academy Theatre in Lindsay, Ontario.
  • The Fiery Cross (2002)  A musical history of Scotland, told by her grandmother to a Métis girl in northern Manitoba. Has a cast of dozens, including a full pipe band and fiddle band. Designed to be performed outdoors at the Highlands of Durham Games, but yet to be staged due to funding issues…
  • Trails in the Valley (2006)  A short musical history of Uxbridge, Ontario, staged outdoors in Elgin Park as part of the town’s bicentennial celebrations. Maud of Leaskdale
  • Maud of Leaskdale (2011-2013)  A one-woman play about the life of author Lucy Maud Montgomery, using excerpts from her journals. Commissioned for the centennial of her arrival in Ontario. Now an ongoing part of the interpretive program at the LMM historic site in Leaskdale, and staged in the historic church her husband preached in.
  • Music Hall 110  (2011)  A special one-night presentation, with a cast of dozens of volunteers, re-creating the opening concert at the Uxbridge Music Hall in December, 1901. Based on articles in period newspapers, Conrad put together the program, found performers for each segment, wrote the script, and MCed the evening.
  • Maquinna (2014) A musical about the 1803 encounter between British sailor John Jewitt and the first peoples of Vancouver Island. Currently being researched and written, hopefully to be staged on the west coast in the near future.
  • Stonecliff (2016) A musical about Michael J. Heney, an Irish immigrant lad from the Ottawa Valley of Ontario who went on to build the White Pass and Yukon Railway, an internationally recognized engineering achievement. Due for a premiere production in the Yukon and Alaska in the fall of 2017.
  • BOOKS
  • Jewel on the Hill: the Story of Ontario’s Thomas Foster Memorial. In the rolling countryside about an hour north-east of downtown Toronto sits an amazing edifice, built during the Great Depression by a former mayor of that city as a tribute to his lamented wife and daughter. The Thomas Foster Memorial is one of the most spectacular tombs in North America, but many who live within even a few miles of its great bronze doors, as well as the descendants of those who created it, have never seen its breathtaking interior. For the first time, this book gives the full story of how the Memorial came to be, along with a detailed photographic examination of its art and architecture, inside and out, and concludes with a glimpse into its future as a centre for the performing arts.
  • A Home of Her Own:Lucy Maud Montgomery and Ontario’s Leaskdale Manse National Historic Site Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the enduringly popular Anne of Green Gables, is often associated with the setting of that and most of her other novels, her native Prince Edward Island. But Montgomery in fact spent almost half of her life in Ontario. In the village of Leaskdale, as the wife of a Presbyterian minister from 1911 to 1926, she knew the joy of motherhood, of friendship, of creating her own garden, of ongoing literary success (11 of her 22 books were written there). But she also knew the anguish of the Great War, of her husband’s mental illness, of the loss of a stillborn son, and of her closest friend to the Spanish flu epidemic. The Leaskdale Manse was declared a National Historic Site in 1997; this book tells of its restoration to the period when Maud dwelt there, and using her own powerful words, of the life she lived there.

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