Also happening that day, David Garneau performs in front of Sir John A.’s statue in City Park. Dressed as Louis Riel, complete with noose and black hood, Garneau approaches the statue, calling on Macdonald’s statue to have a conversation. The piece ultimately conveys the frustration of Metis peoples whose relationship with the Canadian government is complex and often negative. Erin Sutherland, who has curated Garneau’s performance, invites everyone back to Queens’ Agnes House to discuss what they have seen in front of the statue. The hot chocolate is outstanding.
National news media is everywhere—watching Harper, watching Garneau, watching SALON. James Daschuk, our guest from the Growing Plains event, and author of Clearing the Plains suddenly becomes THE person media wants to talk to. He gives his final interview of the day with CBC using FaceTime on my cell phone. His interview is impeccable. I pray my camera work is as good.
Before long, we are back to St. Andrew’s Hall. There is a Presbyterian Church Service next door in the Sanctuary in honour of Macdonald’s birthday. The music is beautiful. SALON’s Sir John A. stands in the back, smiling. As the service ends, men and women in kilts stream into the hall for the Scottish Dancing lessons. As the event kicks off, Sir John A. is pulled into the dancing by a gleeful kilted woman. It’s unclear whether John A. has taken lessons before, or whether his partner is teaching him on the fly. Either way, his grace continues to surprise as he dances a jig, his grinning face a full head above the other dancers.
I steal away after grabbing a few images, determined to keep my two left feet a secret for at least one more day. I walk across the parking lot to the Manse next door. The kitchen is busy, as final touches are put on the Scottish finger food that will feed the kilted dancers next door.
Upstairs is peaceful. I take the time to chat with our Artist in Residence, Isabelle Miltioux. She patiently lets me take pictures of her as we talk about her use of enamel. She is soft spoken, and her elegant French accent is a beautiful contrast to the bold, mixed medium artwork she produces. I am fascinated by her technique—the quilt-like textures created with acrylics and sewing, the enamel, and the fabric paint are woven together into bold, yet balanced portrayals of her subject. The exhibit she shows is called “John A, My Way.” Because I am intrigued, I look her up online afterwards at http://bit.ly/1yj4QdR. She writes of the collection: “I felt connected to him…[he] is more than a political character for me: I am touched by the man of heart and courage as he was, with [he’s] warm and passionate personality.” The charisma she senses in John A.’s eyes shows through in her work.
My time with Isabelle is too short. The clock is ticking, and the final event is in need of attention. As I leave the talented artist, the manse is filling quickly with kilted Scottish enthusiasts. Scotch eggs and mini haggis disappear fast, as visitors stream through all the rooms in the Manse, enjoying artwork and the company.
I sneak back across the parking lot to the Hall, where the acting company is warming up. Ghastly noises can be heard before I even reach the room. I discover the actors doing voice warm ups and I’m thankful that something more treacherous hasn’t happened before opening night of Sir John Eh? The Road Show. Logistics and technicalities are sorted in time for the door to open. Once again, it’s a full house. Mary Rita’s daughter, Princess of the Manse, is given front seat and special instructions to tell us what she thinks of the play. The room gets quiet as the actors rush onto the stage—the show has started.
An hour later, and I have never been prouder to work for SALON. It’s the first time I have seen the play. The actors have talked about accountability, and honesty and good leadership. Sir John A. gave a speech that satisfies even my critical Metis ears. The crowd around me bursts to their feet in a standing ovation.
The week is over. The year has just begun.