After watching a snippet of her family’s history re-enacted on the platform of the Fort Langley CN train station, one woman approached the cast of Wheels In Time to share how Dr. Marr – who was one of the individuals portrayed on stage – had actually brought her mother into this world many decades earlier.
Similarly, another woman in the audience shared how one of the Wheels actors captured the true essence of her grandfather in a small segment of the historical theatre production. And granddaughter and great grandchildren of another character from the 1946 scene, British war bride Lois Bowling, were in attendance for one of the performances and marvelled at the production.
Yet another, currently performing in the film adaptation of Wheels, loved the show so much she was invited to be a part. Langley historian and actor Diane Gendron has since milked her older siblings for recollections around the flood of 1948 – and specifically memories of how one of her siblings learned to swim in the flood waters. In her monologue for the film, she tells how the boys in her character’s graduating class had to forgo grad festivities to help fill hundreds of sandbags aimed at warding off the high waters threatening Langley. That trip down memory lane brought some real authenticity to her character.
This whole thing started as an historic manuscript penned by Fort Langley senior and local historian Mark Forsythe. Using a series of stories, he depicted a bit of Fort Langley’s history and the role the CNR station played in community life. Those vignettes were then accented by a series of songs written by Tom Hammel, a Fort Langley musician and member of the CN Station committee.
A few discussions later, between local historians and thespians, and it was turned into a short play that debuted in the summer of 2019 – under the umbrella of Creative Compass Society and Langley Heritage Society – on the platform at the historic train station.
The initial 15-minute play, which was presented a total of 28 times two summers ago, proved “immensely popular” with the live audience, rekindling a lot of memories for some of the old-time residents in attendance, explained CCS founder and 62-year-old Fort Langley resident Brigitte Seib.
These reactions and more prove to Seib, and the rest of cast and crew of Wheels, that what they’re doing – on stage and now for film – impacts on people.
It was not only the reaction from locals – including many old-timers who caught the show back in 2019 – but all the visitors to the village who stopped to watch, that confirmed they were on the right track.
Then, COVID hit.
“Alas, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the live production,” Seib explained.
The play could not be performed again during the summer of 2020 or 2021, and Seib began cast around for other ideas of how to present these stories. Having a son (Tyler) in the film business, it didn’t take her long to land on an idea.
Now, Wheels in Time is being turned into a short film by All in One Production Inc. – and Seib is optimistic they can wrap up filming by mid-October. Allowing some time for editing, she hopes to see it debut before the year’s out.
“It’s an old project, renewed,” she said, noting the initial play consisted of four scenes with some lavish costume changes infilled by a roving minstrel.
There were six actors – all volunteers – involved in the stage production. They’re all back for the film adaptation. And Forsythe has added a few more chapters – including a segment where he makes a cameo appearance as Hamilton Edge, a local farmer who brings all his business to Jacob Haldi after a neighbour butcher tricked him by wrapping a block of wood in the shape of a ham.
“We’ve added new scenes about Jacob Haldi who left money in his will to build the bridge to McMillan Island, and the flood of 1948 — a dramatic episode in the life of the Fraser Valley,” said Seib, who has a long history volunteering in the arts, music, and theatre.
The historic society, who has partnered on this project with CCS and Seib – a Fort Langley resident for almost 40 years – said her “incredible enthusiasm is infectious and her desire to build new relationships between the arts and community is inspired.”
The plan, said Seib, is to eventually feature this film at the CNR station, and while the hope was to unveil it during this year’s Douglas Day banquet – again cancelled due to COVID restrictions – she’s hopeful there will be another opportunity that presents itself where Wheels in Time can be debuted.
In the meantime, for more information about the station’s history, people can visit www.langleyheritage.ca/cn-station.
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