The Land Remains, The River Flows: Environmental Historical Theatre for Young Audiences

Photo: Thwaites Empire Theatre

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Drama in education is a familiar tool for bringing the human side of life to primary school students. This non-traditional approach to topics as diverse as drug abuse, mathematics and, now, environmental history touches the heart and minds of the spectators, and makes partners of teachers and learners in discovering new aspects of the subject material. The Land Remains, The River Flows, a production for K – Gr. 8 from Ottawa’s Salamander Theatre for Young Audiences, dramatizes pivotal moments in the environmental history of the Ottawa Valley, presenting the Individuals, decisions and cultural dynamics which historically shaped the watershed of the Ottawa River.

A four-way collaboration between Salamander Theatre, NiCHE, the Community Foundation of Ottawa and playwright / NiCHE New Scholar Linnéa Rowlatt, the project introduces the results of environmental historical research in an immediate and engaging manner to young audiences in Eastern Ontario / Eastern Canada. The Land Remains, The River Flows (formerly entitled River of Time) is 48 minutes of drama, music and dance, accompanied by a Teacher Support Manual which strengthens the themes and materials presented during performance. The play has been written, the music composed, and the raw material now goes into production; creation of the Manual is underway and it will be available to accompany the production as the show begins to tour in January 2011. A performance can be booked through Salamander Theatre, whose touring productions perform to over 15,000 schoolchildren every year.

Linnéa’s experience with theatre-for-young audiences (TYA) happily came together with the training in environmental history she received as part of her MA thesis, giving her the academic tools required to access research and the dramatic chops to interpret the material she found.The Land Remains, The River Flows is a series of dramatic and humourous historical incidences (local, regional, colonial and international), ranging from the pre-Columbian First Nations of the Kichisipi to the recent turmoil over a proposed uranium mine in Frontenac County. Each incident features either a lifestyle that makes a known impact on the environment or an individual decision which was pivotal in creating the Ottawa Valley landscape we see today.

NiCHE is a non-profit network of scholars that seeks to disseminate knowledge of Canada’s environmental history and historical geography. Salamander Theatre for Young Audiences has brought professional level theatrical performances and drama-in-education workshops to children and youth of all ages since 1993. The Community Foundation of Ottawa is an independent centre for community philanthropy, connecting donors who care with causes that matter and serving as a trusted resource for addressing issues and leveraging opportunities in the community.

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