Ten Lost Years

In a number of prairie landscape paintings, there’s a solitary figure or building pushing up past the horizon line, standing defiantly against an overwhelming sky. That’s about as close as I can come to describing why the stories of this particular period, the Great Depression, affect me so much.

Ten Lost Years Postcard front 2012

In 1975, I was living in Edmonton, working as the Artistic Director of a small theatre company. By pure chance, I happened to come across a story about a Vancouver Sun reporter named Barry Broadfoot who had written a book about the Great Depression called Ten Lost Years.

Broadfoot realized that the entire generation of Canadians who had lived their formative years during the Depression was in danger of passing away and taking their stories with them. He also realized that very little was known about the time. Governments were pretty tight-mouthed about what went on, and the people themselves were often ashamed of what the hard times had put them through.

So, he took a leave from the paper and traveled across the country, asking people in bars and train stations, on planes and busses one simple question, “What do you remember about the Depression?” Initially, many of them weren’t able to recall anything. But gradually, as his tape recorder rolled, the doors of their memories would open and the memories flooded in.

I bought the book the same day, and as I read it, I was amazed by the honesty and simplicity of the stories, the incredible humour and stoicism of the men and women, and of course, the theatrical possibilities. George Luscome, the Artistic Director of Toronto Workshop Productions, did a wonderful production that became a Canadian classic. But when my turn came a few years later, I wanted to go down a different road. I wanted to explore the simplicity of the stories themselves. Just the actor, the images, the music and the audience.

I’ve directed the show several times. Every time, it’s different. New stories push their way past the horizon and have to be told. These are the ones that have to be told this time.

Scott Swan,
Artistic Director, Seacoast Studios
Director, Ten Lost Years


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