What could be more Canadian than gathering around a campfire for stories by one of Canada’s greatest authors on Canada Day weekend? The Current couldn’t resist a trip to Whitney for the first ever Enchanted Campfire Tales. The event, Fishing with Leacock, featured Mark Woermke of the Opeongo Reader’s Theatre, a local group operating out of the public libraries in Whitney, Barry’s Bay and Killaloe. He read what he called “fishy tales” because as he pointed out there was always something fishy about the way Leacock wrote a short story.
We arrived to find that organizer Angela Pollak had indeed lit a campfire but given the threat of thunderstorms on a sultry Canada Day weekend, she had also provided seating under cover. We could listen while sipping ice-water and nibbling on Timbits (more Canadiana!)
During Leacock’s The Everlasting Angler, Woermke arrived at The Story of the Extraordinary Bait. He read,
This is a more advanced form of fishing story. It is told by fishermen for fishermen. It is the sort of thing they relate to one another when fishing out of a motor boat on a lake, when there has been a slight pause in their activity and when the fish for a little while–say for two hours, have stopped biting. So, the fishermen talk and discuss the ways and means of their craft. Somebody says that grasshoppers make good bait: and somebody else asks whether any of them have ever tried Lake Erie soft shell crabs as bait, and then one–whoever is lucky enough to get in first–tells the good old bait story.
Mark Woermke (L) and Angela Pollak
Enchanted Campfire Tales events are not always about fishing. The series continues with different story tellers every Saturday evening 7:30 – 9 p.m. throughout July and August. Most performers are members of Storytellers Canada, each with their own specialty such as folk tales, pioneer memoirs, bilingual programmes and sometimes musical accompaniment. Online booking is super simple with EventBrite. Click HERE for details of more Enchanted Campfire Tales.
Pollak told us that she wants to build an interest in intangible cultural heritage, saying,
There are a lot of stories in rural Ontario, but what you don’t have is the performance aspect to it. People who tell those really great stories don’t often perform outside small social circles. I’m interested in creating an opportunity for that to happen in larger groups so that tourists coming to this area can hear those local stories.
Rural communities across the country all have the same issues. They are built on monoculture economies, seasonal unemployment, under-employed or unemployed women. When the business pulls out that primary driver of the economy in the area, the communities founder and they disappear. When these communities disappear all of that cultural heritage just goes away, never to be recovered. My goal is to create a model to show communities how to identify their own culture and revitalize the community out of it.
Opeongo Reader’s Theatre producer, Barry Conway, with mobile recording studio
Opeongo Reader’s Theatre produces podcasts of readings of local stories. Producer Barry Conway set up a mobile recording studio in his truck. You can listen to Fishing with Leacock on the ORT podcast site, which you will find on iTunes. Just look for this symbol: