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Ten Lost Years

Drama in two acts, Ten Lost Years is a collective creation based on the book by Barry Broadfoot entitled Ten Lost Years 1929-1939: Memories of Canadians Who Survived the Depression (Toronto: Doubleday, 1973; rpt. McClelland & Stewart, 1997). Broadfoot crossed the country along the railway network, taping the stories of a wide variety of individuals. Music was by folk musician and actor Cedric Smith and dramaturgy was by Jack Winter, who organized the material into "vivid units ... into a pattern which had less to do with chronology than with theme, more to do with story than with history, and most to do with the logic of the one-man band where a few actors play many parts and every prop has innumerable functions" (Winters, 34).

It premiered at Toronto Workshop Productions/TWP in 1974 featuring, among others, Jackie Burroughs. From 1974 to 1981, the show had eight separate productions, two national tours, and tours in Britain and the Netherlands. It was also produced by CBC television (dir. Robert Allen).

A portrait of the Great Depression and its effects upon this country, Ten Lost Years suggests a diversity of scenes, "from farmyards to highways, from kitchens to boxcars, from shop floors to hobo jungles, fro spiritual deserts to centres of government" (Writer's Note, 185), as it views the economic catastrophe on personal and national scales. The "Director's Note" suggests that it be performed by six men and four women: "Onstage the women have their 'homes' that they continue to return to. The men keep moving as they did during the Depression when they travelled back and forth across the country" by train (185). There is music, humour and some wonderful set pieces (including a radio broadcast with sound effects). It is the ideal actor's and director's exercise.

Sources: Jack Winter. The Tallis Bag. Ottawa: Oberon, 2012.

Jack Winter. My TWP Plays: A Collection Including Ten Lost Years. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2013.

Commentary by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof.

Last updated 2021-11-29