Friday, September 22, 2023

Step Back Into Local History With New Play At Battlefield Park Museum

The first weekend of June is a big deal for Stoney Creek’s Battlefield Park Museum. Every year, the National Historic Site re-enacts the 1813 Battle of Stoney Creek for spectators, which took place on the grounds of the 19th-century homestead and former home of the Gage family. 

This year, the second weekend of June will also be a big deal, as festivities continue at the site with a work of historical fiction set against the backdrop of the War of 1812.  

Taking inspiration from the local landscape and the Jane Austen-esque romances of the same time period, Brock & Sophia introduces audiences to a romance between the titular characters, as well as a conflict between Brock and two Indigenous heroes of The War of 1812 as they prepare for war. As these two stories weave together, Brock’s attitudes towards women and Indigenous peoples are challenged by his personal interactions. While the Collective re-examined the historical record from a contemporary perspective, Brock & Sophia is ultimately a work of fiction. 

“We’re interested in the ‘what might have been.’” says Director Brian Morton. “Not so much ignoring known history, but exploring what might have been going on around it. Inspired by television shows like Outlander, it’s very much a romantic drama in the style of Jane Austen.”

The site-specific work will be hosted indoors at the Nash-Jackson House at Battlefield House Museum & Park. Within the house is The Cellar at Grandview, which has often hosted weddings, but with its 1830s decor, will easily transform into Brockamour (an estate near Niagara-on-the-Lake), and the barracks of Fort George; the production’s primary settings.

The play is the first offering by the newfound Brock Collective, which was founded in April 2020. Morton was one of the founding members of the Collective, who joined after seeing a Facebook post by Peter Anderson. With the pandemic forcing individuals to stay isolated, the Collective became an opportunity for individuals to collaborate on a research project that eventually grew into Brock & Sophia

“About 15 people responded to that [post], and after 3 months, only 8 of us were still regularly attending the zoom sessions.” Morton recalled. “We each agreed to read various books and then to discover the history. . .”

Eventually, each member pitched a play and writers were assigned to work on it. According to Morton, the writing process took slightly over a year and was led by Collective members John R. Hewson and Aha Blume. As the play took shape, each member of the Collective took different- and often multiple- roles onstage and off. In addition to his role as Director, Morton also served as Dramaturge. In addition to his role as writer, Hewson serves as co-producer offstage, and plays the role of Aeneas Shaw onstage.

For Morton, Brock & Sophia isn’t his first performance of historical fiction. The Hamilton artist calls plays about local history his ‘bread and butter.’ Most recently, Morton wrote and performed in the 2022 Hamilton Fringe production The Night They Raided McMaster. Brock & Sophia is his second foray into local history during the War of 1812; back in 2013, Morton was involved in another production that was set during the War of 1812. 

“That particular production was not something that I was happy with, so I looked at it [Brock & Sophia] as a second chance to kind of use the research that I had developed into something theatrical.”

Who: Brock Collective
What: Brock & Sophia
Length: 2 hours, including intermission
Where: Battlefield House Museum & Park (77 King Street West, Stoney Creek)
When: June 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 at 7:30pm; June 11, 18 at 2pm
Tickets: $27 through the City of Hamilton

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