Journey to Hometown, Part 2


Haunting sentimentality filled the room as we went through "My Hometown" during our second singing rehearsal.  There was a fierce, unfiltered pride in our community that immersed itself in the words, the phrasing, the tenor of the notes.  A lump in my throat made itself known, as I had a real sense of how this show was going to feel when it gets in front of our residents.

It was the middle of the Reagan years when Springsteen came out with this powerful elegy to American life, troubled times and sense of place.  It spoke to a nation and struck to the core of nationalistic pride, hitting that emotional sweet spot that propelled "The Boss" to the upper stratosphere of stardom.

I'm wondering what goes through your mind when you get sentimental about Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray, the place you call home?  I flashback to the birth of our sons.  This is the only home they've ever known.  For most of Dylan's life and all of Ben's, this house has been home, a familiar street, friendly neighbors, towering Manitoba Maples in the backyard, snow forts, tree house, garden, hiding places.

"Close your eyes," said Michael Beamish, playwright and assistant director of Hometown...The Musical.

"Imagine you are in that place that makes you happy, secure, relaxed.  Now with that picture in your mind, open your eyes and inject that feeling into the song."


Honestly, I went right to my happy place at the confluence of the Snye and the Clearwater River, a 15-pound northern pike on the line making a run for the Athabasca around MacDonald Island.

"Weeeeeeeeee!" sounded the fishing reel, the drag in the right position to allow the fish just enough give to make a run for it.  The air, the place, the moment was perfect as I opened my eyes with the 30 others who comprise the core ensemble of the show and we went through the song one more time.

Everyone in the show has a different relationship with this place.  Some have been here their whole lives, while others have only been here a few years, or in some cases, only a few months.  In many ways, we reflect the reality of Wood Buffalo and Fort McMurray, a region and community that is diverse, dynamic, and ever-changing, full of stories of people that have come here from across the province and around the world.

"It feels like something big is about to happen," said one person as our lunch break came to an end.  "It's as if everything, all the energy is flowing toward this place.  Does that make sense?"

"A nexus," I said.  "The crossing point, the confluence, the meeting place."

"Yah, that's exactly it."

It was a powerful observation that underpins the story we will spend the next two months getting ready to tell.

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