Cast members with The Other Guys Theatre Company perform Good Timber: Songs and Stories of the Western Logger at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre March 31.

Cast members with The Other Guys Theatre Company perform Good Timber: Songs and Stories of the Western Logger at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre March 31.

Good Timber offers history lesson on logging through song

Musical theatre revue, Good Timber: Songs and Stories of the Western Logger, comes to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre March 31.

It’s a musical you will be able to sink your saw into.

The Other Guys Theatre Company, in association with the Royal B.C. Museum, is celebrating the golden age of logging in the Pacific Northwest with its original, rollicking musical theatre revue, Good Timber: Songs and Stories of the Western Logger.

The play comes to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Saturday, March 31.

“Since 2001, The Other Guys Theatre has created original theatrical productions intended to reflect and entertain our community,” said Good Timber director Ross Desprez, who also serves as the Victoria-based theatre company’s artistic director. “Most often our productions include a strong musical element and more and more we are finding subject matter in local history.”

That’s the case with Good Timber, which celebrates the days of the legendary “Bulls of the Woods.” The musical follows the hookers, hi-riggers, fallers, whistle punks and locie engineers back to a time when loggers climbed trees.

The play is based on the logger poetry of Robert E. Swanson, who was considered “The Bard of the Woods.”

Born in 1905, Swanson worked for years as a logger, then as a forestry safety inspector for the government.

He was also the inventor of a special horn adapted for  trains used all over the world, and also pioneered the development of air brakes on logging trucks.

Swanson’s expertise on steam trains and their whistles was central to the restoration of B.C.’s popular Royal Hudson excursion train, and visitors to Vancouver will recognize his handiwork in Gastown’s steam clock.

During his forestry career, Swanson went to every logging camp and mill operation on the B.C. coast and spent long evenings bull slinging with the legends of logging.

Swanson started writing down their stories and ballads in the 1930s, and in the process he became one of B.C.’s bestselling poets.

A new edition of his collected bunkhouse ballads, Rhymes of a Western Logger, was published in 1992, while his book, Whistle Punks & Widow-Makers: Tales of the BC Woods, which features 26 unforgettable stories about near-mythical characters in the B.C. logging industry, was published posthumously by Harbour Publishing in 2000.

Swanson died in 1994.

Based on some of those songs and stories, Good Timber is performed by an ensemble cast and set against a multimedia backdrop of rarely seen archival imagery.

“The company is excited to be performing in front of the amazing images compiled by John Carswell, scoured from the B.C. archives,” said Desprez. “We hope you enjoy our glimpse into this rich cultural era in our history.”

A sneak peek video of this unique performance can be seen on the Good Timber page on the Ticket Seller website, ticketseller.ca, where tickets can also be purchased for the production.

Presented by the Performing Arts Centre Society, the March 31 production starts at 8 p.m., and tickets and information can also be obtained by calling 250-549-7469.

 

Vernon Morning Star

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