The Ship’s Company Theatre: Staying afloat in smalltown Nova Scotia


1. At least 70 children were sexually assaulted at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre — and maybe up to 200, RCMP say

Tim Bousquet has a story on the RCMP press conference yesterday, in which the police announced they are investigating the sexual assaults of up to 200 children at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre. The assaults took place between 1988 and 2017.

Bousquet writes:

Through the 30-year period of sexual abuse, there were separate wings for boys and girls. All 70 of those investigators have already spoken with have been men, but investigators have not ruled out that there might be survivors who are women.

Citing an open investigation, at the press conference, police did not give details about a perpetrator or perpetrators, but in the January 2019 lawsuit, the four men said they were abused by a swim coach at Waterville. The swim instructor was not named in the lawsuit.

It seems to me that we live in a strange, bifurcated world when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse of children. On the one hand, we have wild, baseless, malicious conspiracies, that persist for years and ruin people’s lives. The Satanic panic of the 1980s, Pizzagate, the current moral panic equating LGBTQ+ people somehow with child abuse. I want to say it’s ridiculous, but ridiculous is too light a word, given the extreme damage caused by these views.

At the same time, we do have a long-standing culture of the sexual assault of minors — children — by authority figures: guards, teachers, coaches, pastors and priests… the list goes on. Those who are the victims of outlandish claims suffer. Children suffer. Those with power are protected.

Click or tap here to read “As many as 200 children were sexually assaulted at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre, say RCMP.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


2. Police board wants team of advocates to review sexual assault investigations

Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The municipality’s Board of Police Commissioners hopes to have a team of advocates reviewing Halifax Regional Police sexual assault investigations later this year,” Zane Woodford reports.

In June, Sunny Marriner, Canadian lead on the Violence Against Women Advocate Case Review (VACR) model, which reviews sexual assault investigations that do not lead to charges, made a presentation to the police board. Yesterday, the board discussed options for implementing the model. Woodford writes:

As has been on display at the Police Review Board hearing into Carrie Low’s case this week, police can mishandle sexual assault cases in myriad ways. VACR can, according to its website, “identify cases requiring further investigation by police.”‘

The board voted last year to recommend Chief Dan Kinsella work with Marriner on options to implement the model in HRM. In a report to the board on Wednesday, HRP Supt. Andrew Matthews outlined three options.

Read more about those options in the full story.

Click or tap here to read “Halifax police board looks to implement advocate case review for sexual assault files.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


3. Dr. Lynn Jones honoured by Truro town council

A smiling Black woman wearing a blue headscarf, large gold earrings, and a sleeveless blue dress with a print on the collar accepts an award from a white man with grey hair and wearing a black-and-white shirt, black tie, and black pants. Behind the man and woman are another man and woman sitting at a wooden table. There are a Canadian flag and a Nova Scotian flag in the backround.
Dr. Lynn Jones with Truro Mayor Bill Mills. Credit: Matthew Byard

“[Dr, Lynn] Jones was honoured by the town of Truro during a council meeting Monday. She was one of 60 appointees to the Order of Canada in June,” Matthew Byard reports.

Byard writes:

Truro Mayor Bill Mills said it was Coun. Alison Graham who told him about Jones’ appointment to the Order. Graham said that Monday was the most people she’d ever seen in council chambers.

“Today, on behalf of the town of Truro and Truro town council, and also citizens of Truro, I’d like to acknowledge and congratulate Dr. Lynn Jones on receiving the Order of Canada,” Mills said…

“Dr. Jones was born and raised in Truro, has been a lifelong civil and human rights activist and educator, a community archivist, and a community and labour organizer, and an inspiring speaker, and a good friend as well,” Mills said.

For her part, Jones drew attention to the contributions of others, and said she was grateful for the support and recognition, but “we’ve got a lot of things to challenge and stand up for and fight for.”

Click or tap here to read “Truro council honours Dr. Lynn Jones for appointment to Order of Canada.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


4. Indigenous rights and climate justice

A book cover in red, yellow, black, and orange. There is an Indigenous drawing of a moose over an orange moon and smaller drawings of onshore oil rigs. The text says "The end of the this world: Climate Justice in So-Called Canada" by Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, Donald Gray-Donald, Joel Leforest, Crystal Lameman, and Bronwen Tucker.
Credit: Contributed

Suzanne Rent interviews geography and environmental studies professor Emily Eaton, one of the authors of the book The End of this World: Climate Justice in So-Called Canada. The book is described as “a compelling roadmap to a livable future, where Indigenous sovereignty and climate justice go hand in hand.”

It’s a really interesting interview. Here is a short excerpt:

HE: What did you learn yourself during the couple of years working on the book? 

EE: I learned so much. One of the interesting conversations we had numerous times when the group of authors was around were the terms and concepts of land back. One thing I learned a lot about was that, for example, Indigenous nations have never given up their land. They never ceded or surrendered their jurisdiction either. In a certain sense, land back or jurisdiction back is a misnomer, and what Canada really needs to do is to just recognize the land rights and jurisdiction that Indigenous people have. That really means getting out of the way less than the concept of returning [the land]. Land and the responsibility of taking care of the land, Indigenous people never considered it alienated in the first place.

HE: When people read this book, what do you and other authors hope they get out of it, including what they should do?

EE: We’ve had a long period of environmentalism that has really focused on individual action. I think after 40 years of being told we just need to turn the lights out and take shorter showers, people are cognizant that obviously the world needs to change much more than that. In the book, we talk really about collective solutions. All of the authors have been involved as activists on the ground in movements themselves, and we talk a little bit about our experience in the movements, and how mobilizing collectively can help with the climate anxiety and grief that people are experiencing right now.

Click or tap here to read “The End of This World: Indigenous rights and sovereignty, climate justice, and creating a better future for us all.”

Rent notes:

A launch for the book is being held Thursday, July 13 at 6:30pm at Glitter Bean Cafe on Spring Garden Road. The launch is being hosted by the Nova Scotia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), Corporate Mapping Project, and The Council of Canadians. 

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


5. Councillors say no to developer’s appeal to expand his home on the Northwest Arm

Homes on the water are seen from an aerial view on a sunny day.
Ghosn’s property on Armview Avenue is seen in a realtor photo from 2020. Credit: Facebook/Bryant Realty Atlantic

“Mark Ghosn won’t be able to build the addition of his dreams on his Armview Avenue property after Halifax councillors voted down his appeal Wednesday night,” Zane Woodford writes.

From Woodford’s story:

Ghosn, who owns City Centre Property Management, bought the property in 2020 for $2.3 million. He applied in 2021 to build an addition to the existing home. He planned to essentially replace the two-storey building on the lot now with a modern three-storey structure, complete with an elevator.

The plan had the new build 1.8 metres from the property line on one side. That’s closer than the 4.5 metres required under the land-use bylaw for the area. Council adopted that bylaw, the Centre Plan, after Ghosn bought the property.

Deputy Mayor Sam Austin, chair of the community council, said:

“I always look at these things, you’ve got to do one of two things: you have to either convince staff or you have to convince your neighbours,” Austin said. “I’m afraid in this case that neither has been successful.”

Click or tap here to read “Councillors deny Northwest Arm property owner’s appeal to build bigger house.”

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

A yellow box which links to a helpful information page. The text reads "Unable to read paywalled articles? If you're having problems signing in, click here for help."

1. Making theatre and staying afloat in Parrsboro

Wooden building with a small ship called the Kipawo integrated into the structure, on a deck covered by a roof.
The Ship’s Company Theatre building. Credit: James MacLean / Ship’s Company Theatre

A woman greets us as we walk up the ramp onto the deck of the Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro. “Have you got your tickets?” she asks. We do. She lets us know that today’s performance of the play Crypthand is a “masked matinee” and that they will give us masks if we don’t have them.

The woman is Laura Vingoe-Cram, the company’s artistic director. Such is the world of summer theatre in small-town Nova Scotia. The artistic director asks if you’ve got tickets. The general manager staffs the snack bar.

Crypthand, by Lily Falk, tells an imagined story from the youth of real-life Anne Lister, described on the company’s website as “a 19th-century diarist, businesswoman and queer icon.” (Lister is also the subject of the TV series Gentleman Jack.) It was first produced last fall at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax.

After the show, as I considered approaching Vingoe-Cram for an interview, I heard her telling someone that it’s hard to get the word out, now that there is no theatre reviewing to speak of in the province. That was my cue. We set up an interview for later in the week.

This is Vingoe-Cram’s first year as artistic director of the company, which was founded 39 years ago by Michael Fuller and Mary Vingoe (Vingoe-Cram’s mother).

I talked to Vingoe-Cram about the lineup for her first season, her vision for the Ship’s Company Theatre (aka “the Ship”), and the challenges of making theatre in a small-town.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Philip Moscovitch: Tell me about the Ship’s Company Theatre and this legacy you’ve stepped into as artistic director.

Laura Vingoe-Cram: Ship’s Company began 40 years ago, with a little dream of doing theatre on the deck of this dilapidated ferry vessel that had been beached in Newfoundland for almost 30 years after the war and brought back to Parssboro. They wanted to renovate the ship. They wanted to bring it back to life and have it sail again. And so they thought, let’s do a fundraiser and do a play. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do a play as a fundraiser, but they don’t tend to work. They don’t tend to raise a lot of money. But that raised a lot of interest and a lot of enthusiasm in the community.

They did a play called You’ll Be In Her Arms by Midnight and it was a massive success and thus the Ship’s Company was born. And there’s just something about the essence of the ship that is so tied in to what we do in terms of our theatre programming. The idea of the ship, the idea of travel, the idea of going to unknown destinations. I think the theme and the metaphor of the ship lives very strong in what we do, and always has. Ship’s Company Theatre has always had a mandate of producing new and unique Atlantic Canadian work, right? We take risks and we do stuff that is maybe not your typical summer fare, but that’s what makes us really special. And so that’s what I’ve always taken forward, taken with me throughout my life with the Ship. And what I hope to take forward as the artistic director is really continuing that legacy of doing unique, powerful, exciting theatre by Atlantic Canadian artists.

PM: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing as a small-town theatre company?

LVC: I think inflation is a challenge. I think gas prices are a challenge. A lack of reviewers is a big challenge. There are just no arts reviewers in the Herald anymore. I don’t really think the Coast does much anymore. There are a couple of independent people who do stuff on occasion, but they’re kind of hard to get consistently. So it’s just reframing how we market, and how we get the word out. One the things I say at the beginning of each show is, “If you like the show, tell 100 of your closest friends.” I stole that from Jeremy Webb [the artistic director of Neptune Theatre]. But, you know, getting the word out on social media really helps us a lot.

Unfortunately, in order to really hack it on social media, you have to have a lot of money to pay for advertising. You’re vying for people’s attention on those platforms, and their attention is scattered in millions of different ways. So, that’s always tough, but I remain optimistic. I think the power of word of mouth is a great, good thing. It’s all about forming community and getting people excited about the show within pockets of community. How do we market to those people who are going to get excited by a show like Crypthand?

Theatrical stage with two twin beds and chairs, screens with text projected on them in the background, an actor in a slip on the stage and a violinist at the edge of the image.
The set for Crypthand. Credit: James MacLean/ Ship’s Company Theatre

PM: Crypthand was already produced in Halifax. Why did you want to bring it here?

LVC: It’s always so lovely to be able to give a show a second production. That is one of the things we do here at the Ship too. So often what happens in our Nova Scotia theatre scene is that a play is one and done and never happens again. Maybe it only gets a small run at the Bus Stop Theatre, and maybe 200 people see it. With Crypthand [at the Bus Stop] we got cancelled the first weekend for Hurricane Fiona, and so I think we only had six performances.

So this is an opportunity for this play to have another audience, which is exciting, right? Bring it to a rural audience, or more summer audience, or just a wider audience in general. And for me, that’s really important in terms of championing our Atlantic Canadian playwrights, because that means publishers will see that, “Oh, Crypthand got two productions. That means we might actually publish that script.” Or it’s more of an opportunity for other producers to see it, and they might want to tour it and take it across Canada. So it’s really important that we are able to offer that, as well as doing first-time productions.

PM: And, in terms of new productions, I see you’re premiering a new Catherine Banks play later this summer.

LVCM: Downed Hearts is a fantastic play by Catherine Banks. She’s been writing it for 16 years. It’s so exciting that we finally get to produce it. The play is inspired by Swissair 111, which crashed off the coast of Peggy’s Cove in 1998. It tells the story of Aaron, a fisherman who goes out to try to find survivors in the water after the crash. And, as we know, there were no survivors. It really speaks to the trauma through the lens of this one fisherman. The play is really about healing — healing through family, healing through community, and I think healing through art. And it’s a beautiful, poetic look at what it means to heal after tragedy.

I think a lot about more recent events in our Nova Scotian history, like the mass shooting that occurred just in Portapique, which is only an hour outside of Parrsboro, and how that has had a huge, lasting effect on our community. We really had to come together as a community to heal after that, because it was just so shocking. I think this was similar in many ways. Even more so, because it affected so many people in such an intense way, that people are still coping with PTSD 25 years later. I was only five when it happened, so it’s been really informative for me to go back and look at the history of what happened, and delve into that again.

It’s just a really beautiful play about something that is so close to us.

And it’s a world premiere. We are doing it with Eastern Front and Matchstick Theatre as well. So we’ve got three companies behind the show.*

PM: Beyond this season, what are you hoping to do at the Ship?

LVC: I want to grow the company to have more capacity in terms of programming year-round. I want to build our outreach and have the community feel like it’s a creative home for them. One of the things we’re working on right now is a big renovation project that will see the winterization of the building, that will see more community programming and more accessibility initiatives at our venue. It’s really exciting to me that the Ship’s Company is not just a summer theatre, but actually becomes a year-round arts centre. That’s kind of my vision in terms of the physical future of the Ship. And we have a great community in Parrsboro. More and more people have been moving to rural communities because they can work remotely. This is a really vibrant town — but it’s also really affordable. I hope the theatre continues to grow with the way the town is growing.

A 30-year-old white woman with short brown hair in a side part, looks at the camera smiling, while wearing a blue checked jacket.
Laura Vingoe-Cram, artistic director of the Ship’s Company Theatre Credit: Ship’s Company Theatre

PM: And are you living in Parrsboro now too? The place is kind of in your blood, right?

LVC: My husband [Brendan Melchin] and I actually moved here back in October, when I took the job. We bought a house and we just decided to go all in, because we love Parrsboro. I’ve been coming to Parrsboro since I was a little kid. My mum started the company, and she left the company but she bought a cottage here. And so, because of that, I’ve been coming to Parrsboro to go to my cottage every summer. So Parrsboro and the Ship’s Company have always been very special places to me.

My husband and I got engaged in Parrsboro, and we decided immediately that we wanted to get married on the deck of the Ship. Now, this was back in 2020, before the job even came up. Anyway, when we got engaged we were like, OK, let’s wait until we can gather again. So we chose a date in 2022. It rolls around to spring 2022 and [then artistic director] Richie [Wilcox] announces that he’s leaving the job. And I was like, well, I think I’ll apply. I applied and got the job, and it it got announced on social media a week before our wedding, which was on the deck of the Ship. So, to say that I have a deep, deep connection with the Ship’s Company Theatre is perhaps not an understatement, but certainly true.

*This paragraph was part of the original interview, but not included when Morning File was originally published.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


2. A day at the Sackville library

The front facade of the Sackville Public Library
The Sackville Public Library in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

For the last six weeks or so, I’ve spent my Tuesdays working out of the Sackville branch of Halifax Public Libraries.

I am a longtime library user, of course. I’ve gone to the library to hang out and read, to meet people I’m interviewing, to grab a coffee, to get books out for myself and others (we used to have bins full of picture books). I’ve booked rooms to hold meetings at the library, and I’ve given workshops there myself. And I got to know more about the inner workings of the library when I served on its board.

But what I’ve realized over the last few weeks is that those are totally different experiences from actually spending a day in the place.

Activity comes in waves. The library is generally quiet first thing in the morning. Sometimes there are people, possibly unhoused, napping on one of the couches or in the area outside the library proper, by the gender-neutral washrooms. If there is a children’s program on, after it ends, the space is flooded with toddlers — running around, falling, crawling on the floor, sometimes banging into things and crying. Sometimes just screaming too. They are toddlers.

The teens come later. They seem to arrive in the early- to- mid-afternoon. This is when school is out during the school year, of course, but that’s also when they seem to turn up during the summer too. They play games online, hang out, and yes, borrow books. One day, there were a couple of teen girls having a conversation with someone I thought was a slightly older friend. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but they were right beside me. When I finally looked up, I realized the older “friend” seemed to be an extremely skilled youth worker, who would listen to them, talk a bit, and sometimes drop a piece of advice in an off-hand way.

I don’t know how often the library gets cleaned, but there is always a cleaner there on Tuesdays, maintaining the bathrooms’ cleanliness, meticulously picking up items on the floor and dusting bookshelves, and occasionally stopping to look at a book or a notice while on a break.

One of the tables has a chess board set up on it, and that thing gets a lot of use throughout the day, by people of all ages.

Summer means summer reading club and other activities, including a branch scavenger hunt. So there is a steady stream of kids, many of them looking around, piece of paper clutched in hand, trying to find everything on the list. Earlier this week, when it was raining, the library was packed with kids. I think there was a day camp in there at one point. It was loud! I popped in my cheapo airpod knock-offs while a group of delighted kids played Trouble at the table beside me.

I am sure conflicts occur, but the closest thing I saw was a guy objecting to the idea that teens had priority in the teen area. He was insisting that he should be allowed to use any part of the library he wanted, and the library staffer patiently explained that it wasn’t a question of not being allowed or being kicked out, but that this space was designed for teens, and so when more of them came to the library later in the day, could he please use a different part of the library.

Halifax Public Libraries has been seeking input from the public to inform its next strategic plan, and for awhile there was a board with post-its library users had used to express what they liked and didn’t like about the library, and what they thought the biggest issues in their community were. “Homelessness” appeared as a community issue on several post-its in Sackville. I noticed it didn’t appear on any at the Tantallon branch.

The library also ran a post on Facebook, asking people to click through for a survey. “My greatest wish for the library is….” reads the image in the post. Facebook being Facebook, of course, over 100 people just commented on the post instead of filling out the survey.

What struck me about these comments was how many said they wanted the library to be quiet again. One commenter wanted a zero tolerance policy for profanity.

This post captures the tone nicely:

Reduce the noise levels! I miss sitting at the library, reading a book and relaxing. Haven’t done that in years because there are kids running around screaming and crying or teenagers taking up all the sitting spaces and being obnoxiously loud and vulgar.

Someone else says the library should be quiet because there are plenty of other places available for indoor play. (Where?????)

As I tried to work, with one guy watching a video at full volume on his phone, and kids running towards and past me, and occasionally screaming, I will confess to feeling for a moment that it would be nice if the place were quieter. But mostly I just felt glad to see so many different people at the library. If I really needed a quiet space, I could go into the computer lab, book a study room, or hell, head to the cafe down the street where I would be welcome to work as long as I could put up with the boring music they play all day.

I’ll take the screaming kids having fun over that.

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)


NOTICED

Transit maps, reviewed

Simple and schematic blue-on-white transit map from 1969.
1969 Halifax Transit Map Credit: transitmap.net

A friend drew my attention to the Transit Maps website/blog earlier this week, because he had seen a comment on the new Montreal transit map by one “Phil M” who he assumed was me. The other Phil M kind of sounds like me, and shares a penchant for pedantry.

Thanks to this fortunate mistake on my friend’s part, I can now point you to Transit Maps, which is “run and curated by Cameron Booth, a graphic designer originally from Sydney, Australia, now residing in Portland, Oregon.”

Booth writes:

I design my own transit maps for fun, including a popular reworking of the Washington, DC Metro map, and maps of the US Interstate, US Highway and Amtrak Passenger Rail systems in the style of a transit map.

This is a very fun site, featuring Booth critiquing transit maps — current and historical, real-life and fantasy. (The fantasy category includes maps of imagined transit systems, the Washington Commanders NFL team’s scheduled visualized as a subway map, and alternate version of maps of real transit systems.)

There are only a handful of Canadian maps on the site, one of which is the 1969 Halifax Transit map pictured above. Here is what Booth has to say about it:

A simple and modernist diagram of transit services in Halifax, produced in advance of the system converting from a mix of buses and trolleybuses to all diesel buses on January 1, 1970. The disclaimer that “a full-colour map will be available shortly” seems to indicate that this particular map was somewhat of a placeholder effort until a final solution was produced.

Despite that, it’s quite handsome in its simplicity and the clear explanatory text to lower right complements the map well. The fact that there’s only a handful of routes makes it easy to follow them across the map, even though everything is the same colour.

Of note is that this is the very first transit diagram produced by renowned design firm Gottschalk+Ash.

The final word: Simple, clean modernist design. Works well because of the relative simplicity of the network. Three-and-a-half stars.

I am a huge fan of well-designed wayfinding aids, and if I did not have a deadline, I would be spending a lot more time today digging into this website. Conveniently, Booth engages in some excellent wayfinding himself, with the maps on the site organized into a plethora of categories, including not just dates and regions, but map designers, typography, mode of transit, and more.

One of my favourites on the site (so far) comes from the USSR section. It’s a 1990 trolleybus map from Kaliningrad:

Russian transit map with the word Trolleybus in Cyrillic at top right. The map is colourful, with primary colours and swervy lines.
Trolleybus map from Kaliningrad, USSR, 1990. Credit: transitmap.net

(Send this item: right click and copy this link)

A box with a link which reads "Sign up for our morning email. Get a direct link to the Morning File right in your inbox. Click here."

Government

City

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Province

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
09:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
09:00: Norway Pearl, bulker, arrives at Pilot Boarding Station in outer harbour from Charleston, South Carolina, en route to Sheet Harbour
11:30: Grande Halifax, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
16:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint-Pierre
16:00: Norway Pearl arrives at Sheet Harbour 
17:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York 
00:30 (Friday): Atlantic Star sails for Liverpool, England

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

I recently had a dream in which snack foods were divided into the categories of “potato” and “not-potato” and I am intrigued by this. With gluten and gluten-free. With meat and vegetarian. Non-vegan and vegan. May contain nuts and nut-free. Potato and not-potato.