Arborfield Memorial Hospital

As I've said before, Prairie Nurse is a fictional play based on real life folk. And these real life folk worked at a real life tiny community hospital in Saskatchewan in the late sixties. Many of those prairie hospitals are all but gone now, the buildings destroyed and the land sold. Such is the case with the Arborfield hospital...but not entirely.  

Arborfield Memorial Hospital was purchased by a lovely family, Tim and Helen Soucy.  And what does one do with an old hospital? They turned the nurses' residence into their home and the hospital into their personal garage.

 

The Hospital

The Hospital

The Nurses' Residence

The Nurses' Residence

Reception

Reception

Staff Only

Staff Only

Examination Room

Examination Room

I am so grateful to the Soucy's for inviting my mother and I into their home back in 2007. As you can well imagine it was gloriously emotional and nostalgic for my mom. 

The set and costume design for Prairie Nurse was designed by the wonderful Eric Bunnell.  He captured the institutional beauty of this once bustling hospital with loving detail, with more than a few homages to the real Arborfield hospital. See if you can spot them!

There are two shows left of Prairie Nurse at the Blyth Festival.  

 

 

The email that ignited Prairie Nurse

Prairie Nurse is a fictional play based on real-life folks. And one of those real-life folks is Pat Hackett, aka Patsy Hackett - the in-love-with-love candy striper at Arborfield Memorial Hospital. 

Jess Abramovitch as Patsy, Ryan Bondy as Wilf

Jess Abramovitch as Patsy, Ryan Bondy as Wilf

As I was planning the trip to Saskatchewan in 2007, I wanted to get in touch with people who knew my mom back in the late sixties. My mother hadn't been in contact with Arborfield folks for years. I decided to send Letters to the Editor to several of the community newspapers in and around Arborfield Saskatchewan, asking if anyone remembered working with the Filipino Nurses at Arborfield Memorial Hospital in late sixties. I heard nothing for months. And then one day I received an email:

I think perchance your mom is Cion (Concepcion). She was a nurse at the hospital in Arborfield in the 60"s. Actually got married on Sept/69. Two days before me. When Cion and Penny first came to Arborfield, I was a candy striper there. I also worked the summer of '68 as a nurses aide.

Nightshifts were fun with either your mom or Penny. It meant cooking time on our supper break. Either a nice stir fry or a fried rice.

I remember taking Cion up to Carrot River to visit one of the nurses there. 

Penny, the other Philipino [sic], that came when Cion did, works at Saskatoon City Hospital. She has been there since 1968. Shortly after she married Romy. She works same day surgery and has for years. She used to work on the medicine ward that I now work on.

I have a good memory so if you have questions, just ask away. 

Sincerely

Pat Hackett

The real-life  Pat Hackett and mom, 2007

The real-life  Pat Hackett and mom, 2007

AWW SHUCKS....

I have to tell you, the response to Prairie Nurse has been super duper exciting:

Left to Right: Jess Abrabmovitch, Sarah Cornell, Stephanie Sy, and Lana Carillo. Photo by Terry Manzo

Left to Right: Jess Abrabmovitch, Sarah Cornell, Stephanie Sy, and Lana Carillo. Photo by Terry Manzo

"Prairie Nurse is bound to cure what ails you with a health dose of laughter...." -  The Record, Kitchener/Waterloo

"Prairie Nurse - a rich story with a cast of quirky characters"-  Huron News Now

"Badian has woven together an amusing and heart-warming tale around a piece of Canadian history, thus preserving this interesting piece of past Prairie life." - Entertain This Thought  

"Prairie Nurse prescribes laughs at the Blyth Festival" - The Citizen, Blyth

There are five more performances left of Prairie Nurse at the Blyth Festival. 

top 5 tips for your prairie nurse road trip

Happy Friday Friends! Prairie Nurse is in full swing at the Blyth Festival. Have you been? Not yet? Well, get out your GPS and get ready for your road trip. Here's my top five tips - which has mostly to do with food:

1] Every good road trip needs some good listening. Download the latest The Spoke podcast by Outside the March. Theme song by Huron County's own Sam Sholdice, sound designer for two shows at Blyth this year - Beyond the Farm Show and Falling: A Wake. [And who, by the way, was in the very first Blyth Young Company I ever directed.]

2]  Take the scenic route. There are a few ways into Blyth. I love this route that goes through beautiful Mennonite farm country. Skip the chaos of St. Jacob's. Instead, pick up some picnic-y foods at the road side stands or Stemmler Meats and Cheese in Heidelburg.

3] There's eating on the road, and then there's eating at your destination. When you get to Blyth, grab one of the best burgers you'll ever have at The Blyth Inn [aka The Boot]. Or get your greasy-spoon all-day breakfast on at the Corner Cafe [ask for the special grated potato hash browns with extra onions], or if you go on a weekend evening show, book yourself a ticket for one of the scrumptious Country Suppers offered through the festival. 

Country Supper at the United Church. Photo by Lana Carillo

Country Supper at the United Church. Photo by Lana Carillo

4] Arrived early with time to kill before the show? Walk on down to Bainton's Old Mill and score a vintage motorcycle jacket for $25 [seriously, you'll never buy that crappy pleather knock off again]. Then cross the street and check out the gorgeous garden and pottery at the Davara Studio. 

5] After the show, get yourself across the street from the theatre and grab a latte and a slice of pie at the Queen's Bakery. Or hop back in your car and take a 30 minute detour up to Goderich and grab a box of the best donuts you'll ever have at Culbert's Bakery.  

A box of donut heaven from Culbert's Bakery in Goderich. Photo by Lana Carillo.

A box of donut heaven from Culbert's Bakery in Goderich. Photo by Lana Carillo.

What are your road trip to Blyth tips? 

 

Thoughts for an opening

I am bursting at the seams with love, gratitude and anticipation for tonight's opening of Prairie Nurse a the Blyth Festival.  

Of the trillions of thoughts that are going through my head at any given minute, this one consistently rises to the top - Tagalog is being spoken on stage for the first time at the Blyth Festival. And this, among many things, just hits me straight to the core of my mushy-playwright's heart.

The Blyth Festival exclusively produces Canadian Plays. To hear my parents' native tongue spoken on the festival stage is a a tribute to who they are, their journey and their lasting legacy in the fabric of what being Canadian is all about.

Happy Opening Everyone! Mahal Kita. 

 

mahal kita.png

AN APPENDIX OF TAGALOG* FOR PRAIRIE NURSE

Mabuhay - Welcome

Salamat - Thank you

Oo - Yes

Hindi - No

Ano? - What? 

Ay Dios Ko! - Oh my God! 

Sarap - Delicious

*the Tagalog translations in Prairie Nurse courtesy of Caroline Mangosing and Darrel Gamotin

 

Prairie Nurse: a play about my mom...sorta

My mom immigrated to rural Saskatchewan from rural Philippines in 1967. She came to be a nurse in a small community hospital. She stayed two years before moving to Toronto.

In September 2007, I took my mother back to Saskatchewan – on the 40th Anniversary of her arrival in Canada. We returned to the village where she lived – Arborfield Saskatchewan - a tiny farming community, population 300.

To our surprise, many of the people that knew mom were still there – other nurses and people who lived and worked in the community. And the first thing they would say when they saw mom was “Where’s the other one?”.

Who’s the other one?

Her name is Penny. She was the only other Filipino nurse that was stationed in Arborfield. She came on the same flight as mom back in 1967. We had not planned to see her, as my mother rarely spoke of her, but to say that Penny didn’t seem to want to be there. Though both their contracts were for two years, Penny stayed just shy of a year, moving away shortly after sponsoring her fiancée over from Manila.

On a whim, I typed Penny’s name into the SaskTel search engine and found her in Saskatoon. On the day we were scheduled to leave Saskatchewan, we sat down with Penny in an airport café. She was short, sweet and grey haired. And she looked very much like my mom.

Penny and mum.

Penny and mum.

From that encounter I was tickled by the idea of what it must have been like back then when no one could tell them apart, when everybody thought they were like two-peas-in-a-pod but in truth had nothing in common other than nursing and the Philippines.

So Prairie Nurse was born. A partly-true-but-mostly-fiction play about My Mom, The Other One and Everyone Else Who Couldn’t Tell them Apart.

 

The first preview of Prairie Nurse is a week from today at the Blyth Festival.  

www.blythfestival.com  


 

 

 

Here we go....

It's Canada Day up here in Toronto. And it's the first day off I've had in a while. June was a whirlwind, and for that matter, July will be too. There are so many wonderful theatre things a-happening - The Blyth Festival where my play Prairie Nurse will have its premiere, The Fringe Festival - which I credit for being my launching pad as a playwright, The Summerworks Festival - two summers ago I immersed myself in 40 plays while on the awards jury, 25ish weeks preggers with a new theatre-goer in my belly. 

In celebration of summer and all the delicious art we take for granted, I raise my glass of lemonade to toast The Ontario Arts Council on its 50th Anniversary. If not for the OAC, I wouldn't be the artist I am today.