A Monster Trip to Haida Gwaii

Go West, young man.
Go West, young man.

On Thursday, September 25, Ryan Gladstone (Artistic Director of Monster Theatre) and I arrived in Haida Gwaii to present my show, "Assassinating Thomson" at Queen Charlotte City and Port Clements.  2 shows over a four day trip left us a bit of time to explore, but I can honestly say that it was far short of the amount of time I would like to spend in that magical place.  A year would be a good start...

 

Sandspit Airport...cosy.

Sandspit Airport...cosy.

 The flight up was quite smooth, considering the attendant was convinced there would be lots of bumps.  It was a cloudy day, so there wasn't much of a view of the island approach.  I did manage to get a quick photo of the small airport as we came below the clouds.  A few bumps on the way down - but the next few days would make it well worth it!

I taught Beng the Monster Theatre Salute

I taught Beng the Monster Theatre Salute

 

Ryan and I were met at the Sandspit airport by Beng Favreau, our extremely gracious and generous host  who works with the Haida Gwaii Arts Council.  She arranged to have us set up with an amazing place to stay, great  food, and even a set of wheels to use to explore the island.

 

From the Sandspit airport, we got onto a ferry to head across to the town of Skidegate.  It was a bit of a blustery day, so the boat was a-rockin.

 

A Panorama shot of the Ferry ride across to Skidegate.  Ryan holds 'er steady.

A Panorama shot of the Ferry ride across to Skidegate.  Ryan holds 'er steady.

Monster Theatre rehearsal package

Monster Theatre rehearsal package

The accommodations in Queen Charlotte City were excellent.  A whole house to ourselves complete with a marvellous view of the water.  It was cosy and toasty on our first night.  It has been a while since I've done Assassinating Thomson (last year at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver) ... so we spent the evening (following a delicious dinner at the local fish and chip shop) going over the script and updating the old computer files for the projections.  To unwind, we had a rousing round of our new favourite board game, Small World 

View from our accommodations

View from our accommodations

Friday morning we were up and at 'em.  First order of business was to get a taste of history and culture at the Haida Museum in nearby Skidegate.  The staff there were extremely knowledgable, friendly, and took great care of us.  It was fascinating to learn about the history of the island and to see so much contemporary artwork on display.  The totem poles out front were a particular highlight, as well as the canoe carving house.

The Haida Museum, Skidegate

The Haida Museum, Skidegate

Spirit Lake.  Nice one, nature!

Spirit Lake.  Nice one, nature!

After lunch at the museum, we took a short hike around Spirit lake.  A very easy hike with well groomed paths.  I've got more than a few great shots to paint from.  If I had the day off, I would have found myself there with my easel and a canvass and lost in the beauty of the place. Peaceful?

yup.

 

As it was, I had a show to do.  We headed to the Queen Charlotte Hall and set up the projector and sound with the help of local technical assistant and musician extraordinaire, Jay.  He had us up and running in no time at all.  

The evening crowd was small but mighty.  

In case you haven't seen it, "Assassinating Thmson" is a one man show in which I paint aportrait of the entire audience while I tell the story of becoming a Visually Impaired Visual Artist.  For the history buff outs there, I also unravel the mystery of Canadian Landscape Painter, Tom Thomson's Murder.  

It's one of those shows winds several threads of narratives together, and if I'm not careful I ccan get real lost in the stories.  Thankfully, Ryan was there running the projections and keeeping me on-script throughout.

I had a blast doing the show again and having a chance to chat with some of the locals afterward was a real treat. 

Audience Portrait, Queen Charlotte City

Audience Portrait, Queen Charlotte City

Saturday was our day off and we wanted to take full advantage of it.  I called ahead to reserve a place for a traditional Haida meal.  To fill the afternoon, we decided to hike up the coast to see a shipwreck.  Seemed fairly straightforward.

 

The Wreck of the Pesuta. Note the riding tide....

The Wreck of the Pesuta. Note the riding tide....

We hadn't quite figured out the tide charts, however.  We ended up having to clamber through the woods on our way back, and at one point we both had to take off our shoes, socks, and pants to wade across a River which hadn't been there an hour or so before.

Adventure! 

We made it back just in time for dinner, which was a highlight of the whole trip.  The food, setting, music, and hospitality were one of a kind.  If you're in Skidegate, ask for Roberta.  Everyone knows her. I didn't get a photo as I was busy devouring the amazing meal.

Balance Rock... You can hardly see the wires.

Balance Rock... You can hardly see the wires.

Old Massett Totem

Old Massett Totem

Sunday included a rainy drive up to see the famous Balancing Rock and then on to Old Masset to see some beautiful Totem Poles and check out some local crafts before doing the show for the second and last time.  Another appreciative audience and a pure joy to bring that show out again. They even had a few theories of their own about who may have killed Tom Thomson.  Emily Carr?

Monday morning was a quick tidy of the house before we said farewell to Beng and caught the shuttle to the ferry and across to the airport.

it was a beautiful and inspiring trip all around.  I cannot wait to get my paints out and have a go at some of the incredible landscapes I saw.   

Huge thanks to Beng and the Haida Gwaii Arts Council for inviting us up, and to Ryan Gladstone for coming along and being a great adventure buddy. 

Port Clements Audience  Portrait 

Port Clements Audience  Portrait 

And, of course,  I have to thank TJ Dawe for telling Beng about the show in first place! 

Next stop...Whistler! 

I'm joining in on an Artist Retreat where I'm looking forward to getting my paints out and having a real go at the landscapes I saw. 

Stay tuned!

View from the Ferry...

View from the Ferry...