The Winslow Farm: Millbrook’s Special Arena
When the sun sets behind the Millbrook hills as the moon rises above the desolate landscape of a bombed out battlefield in France during WWI each evening as a performance of Wounded Soldiers at the Winslow farm culminates with “Song of the Poppy” fading into “Mud Song,” the magic of the 4th Line Theatre is palpable. As the artistic administrator/company manager of the theatre, it is my job to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible behind the scenes—I see to the paperwork and other administrative tasks related to the acting company, creative, production and site/audience services crews; organize and facilitate social and celebratory events and lend a helping hand to each department, as needed. And although it is not necessarily a requirement of the job, I swell with pride each day at the accomplishments of each person who is involved in converting the barns and fields of the Farm into a transformative space offering comfort and enchantment to its patrons.
Growing up in the Northumberland hills in the little village of Stockdale (12 km north of Trenton, ON), I have always been awestruck by the beauty of the landscape and the creatures which dwell within it. There is something very powerful living in the woods, the valleys and the rivers of Southern Ontario—something that speaks to those who care to listen. The muses of the land are humbling, urging all to reflect upon our significance as humans and the role we play in our respective realities. When I first walked on to the Winslow Farm and experienced the magic of outdoor theatre in such a breathtaking setting, I was hooked. I thought: ‘What better way is there to express the human experience than through the delicate art of storytelling on the very land which inspires us to marvel at the impenetrable beauty in everyday life?’ Have I mentioned how lucky I feel to be involved in such an artistic endeavour!?
Peter Brook, in his seminal analysis of theatre, The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate, first published in 1968, designates theatre as “a special arena in which each moment is lived more clearly and more tensely” (160). This ‘special arena,’ at times offers reassurance, and at others, offers devastation, provoking those who enter it to analyze and sympathize with the motives, words and actions of its occupants. This special connection between the players and the audience creates a restorative and renewing catharsis, connecting all involved to the story being told. Brook explains, “In everyday life, “if” is a fiction, in the theatre “if” is an experiment. In everyday life, “if” is an evasion, in the theatre “if” is the truth” (161). 4th Line invites people into this ‘special arena’ to offer a glimpse into the truths of our regional and national histories by exploring the “ifs” found within the stories of our peoples. Coinciding with the physical landscape is this virtual landscape which, in my humble opinion, transforms the space into a very magical one.
The stories that are staged at 4th Line are tirelessly researched, work-shopped, written, developed, produced, and created by artists who strive to honour the people, the land and the themes they present. It has been fascinating to have a sneak peek into the creative and administrative processes involved in ‘bringing history to life on the outdoor stages of the Winslow Farm.’ I’ve often had people ask, when inquiring into my ‘line of work,’ things like: “What do you do all year long?” or “You must get bored once the summer season closes.” Let me assure you—we certainly do not get bored as we have a whole lot to do when the season closes—preparing for the next and the next and the next…! It is my hope that 4th Line Theatre continues to tell important stories about our sociocultural histories, challenging audiences to reflect upon the actions and aims of our peoples in good times and in bad, for many years to come! May the magic continue to enchant employees and audiences alike as it inspires artists to continue to explore the “ifs” of our heritage.
Lindy Powell, August 12, 2014.
Peter Brook, The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate (Atheneum, 1968). (http://www.amazon.ca/Empty-Space-Theatre-Deadly-Immediate/dp/0684829576/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407878587&sr=1-1&keywords=peter+brook)
Photo by: Lindy Powell