Ron Keough’s opening remarks to the Boardmore’s at the tribute to their involvement in local theatre, May 8, 1996:
The year after Harry and Liz arrived to live and teach in Cape Breton, thousands of people marched at the race track to express their concern. Thirty years later, and two weeks before Harry joined Liz in retirement 500, people stormed Centre 200. They’re getting out just in time.
And in between the march and the demonstration, we learned a lot about ourselves: to observe, to write it down, to sing about it, to treat what we do and who we are like gold. And we were taught by example from Harry and Liz that it was a team effort, that in working together for a common goal, you would most likely begin to explore what you had to offer. And then you would explore your own spirit and embrace it. The drug scene and “make love not war” coincided with Harry and Liz’s arrival here in Cape Breton. I tried acid one or two times. It didn’t have any real effect on me. I tried acid one or two times. It didn’t have any real effect on me.
And in between LSD and GST, we took trips on buses, cars and trains that we will always remember. We took happy journeys. And then there were the blackouts. I knew I arrived at a place unforseen when I came to from a blackout and I was in a blackout. And there was an audience.
My first role in a Boardmore production was Humulus The Mute. I had 31 words. My sister Alayne played my girlfriend. The next year there were more words in the title of the play than I had dialogue in my first play. Imagine going home in 1967. Your father works at the Coke Ovens. Your mother works at Zellers. And you tell them you’re in a new play. “Ron, what play are you in?” And you say, quite seriously, “The Persecution and Assassination Of Jean Paul Marat as performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis De Sade.” They thought I was on drugs.
But it was a great charade. I loved acting but I was terrified most of the time. But I wanted to do it, I wanted to go to rehearsal. I couldn’t wait to get out of math class and head to rehearsal at the old Lyceum. There were days I’d skip class just to go over my lines. It was the risk of making a commitment. When Harry and Liz gave me a role… that was trust. They would trust me with the words of Thorton Wilder or Arthur Miller. Or Jean Claude Van Italie. And then when they suggested I direct…they trusted me to lead a team in a Happy Journey, or lead an ensemble cast all around the Dining Room. And then Harry and Liz said write. Write about me. My thoughts. My community. So I packaged some of my sarcasm and cynicism and tried mostly to make people laugh and think.
I began writing words, then sentences and I went for a few paragraphs with ideas and fantasies which belonged to me. And then actors performed them for people who left their homes to see, to listen and experience what I thought was entertaining, important or irreverent… or irrelevant for that matter. I took bus rides to Antigonish. I floated across the country on the train with a cast of characters you’d never find on stage. For a kid who was more interested in hockey players than hockey Harry and Liz were a beacon. As hard as it might be for me sometimes – they taught us to always be ON THE UP & UP. My only experience with live entertainment had been the Kiwanis Festival and some public speaking. But now I was getting into live theatre. Live theatre. What it conjures up is magnificent. As Lionel Lawrence said…It’s throwaway art. Others may have said it, but the irony was soon to surface. Here I was in Live theatre…getting stabbed to death in the bathtub. In the Crucible we all wanted to kill those helpless witches in Salem. David Sneddon can relate to this. I mean there he was hanging around the Roman senate, and somebody Stabs him in the back. And then I was writing plays like “Murder at The Mall”.
Liz and Harry may have taught English, but history was made. And I had experiences I never imagined. And we recorded it. In those earlier years the three most important things you need…glue gun, masking tape and hair net. And now we have the internet. Now we have Cape Breton Hurrah. Maybe someday we’ll see the Harmonization and Resignation of Shelia Copps as performed by the residents of the Island of Cape Breton under the direction of Harry and Liz Boardmore. Or a new song titled : We Are An Island A Rock In a Hard Place. Or An Island Transit Bus Named Desire. Or Kilogram on Demand. Harry and Liz are alive and well and living in Cape Breton. Thank Goodness and Thank You.