Audience members attending Glory Days: The True Story of the Great Windsor Fire of 1897 were treated to a musical that not only offered romance and mystery, but highlighted the town's rich history.
Quick As A Wink Theatre hosted the performance Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 7-8.
Famed poet George Elliott Clarke, originally of Three Mile Plains, attended opening night. The recently named poet laureate for Toronto provided a few readings of his work before settling in to watch the performance. He felt it was a story that everyone should hear.
“I think it helps everyone to appreciate the history we have in common,” said Clarke in an interview following the show. “And that's really important, because we often lose that, we often miss that. We're told about all the things that we don't share, we're told about all the things that keep us separate, so it's wonderful to have a story... that helps us to understand what we have in common, understand differences but then also understand the ways in which they can be overcome for the greater good.”
Clarke said the show was 'splendid' to watch, noting he could tell the cast members gave 110 per cent to the roles.
Nearly 100 people came together to put on the performance, including 45 actors. The eight lead actors were Meggie McKay, Mark Wainman, Katherine Meuse, Doug Murley, Brenda Bailey, Troy Lang, Ian Shaw and Dennis Herx,
The musical revolves around the blossoming romance of a music teacher and a ship's carver during 1897. Meanwhile, the true story of George Fletcher, the town's first independent black businessman, and the arson that left Windsor in ashes is told. Fletcher, who was accused of starting the fire, was ultimately acquitted of the arson and a travelling conman was found guilty. Although the town, once the centre of prosperity for the province, was left in ruins, the play ends with the townspeople coming together to rebuild Windsor.
“It's a wonderful show and I really love the way that Michelle Herx has told the story and woven together so many different elements of Windsor's specificity,” said Clarke.
The script and lyrics were written by Herx, who spent a considerable amount of time researching the area’s history. Windsor's Roger Taylor provided the music and orchestration. The project began about a decade ago, with the first full show being held in 2004. It was held once more, in 2005, before being brought back to life this year for the 10th anniversary of Quick As A Wink Theatre.
Clarke, prior to being contacted by Herx, was unaware of the rich historical details surrounding the Great Windsor Fire of 1897. He said it’s a story that people could learn a lot from.
“I think the real lesson of Glory Days should be that the best is still to come if we are willing to understand and respect and build upon the past. You can't leave that out,” said Clarke. “You can't get to the future unless you have a base in the past. And that's not to say that you're stuck there, but it is to say that you understand what your heritage is, which is a treasure even with struggle. Even with strife, it's a treasure.”