Thursday 13 July 2023

Shakespeare comes to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum

Calling all Shakespeare fans! Preparations at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum are fast underway for A Company of Fools' upcoming performance of Hamlet on the evening of Thursday, July 27th. Don't miss your chance to witness this Shakespeare classic come to life, accompanied with drinks and deserts amidst the picturesque setting of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum's grounds. 

Photo of a theatre group taken by Duncan Donovan in Alexandria, c. 1920. Object ID: 2010-000-016. 

Upon your visit, we invite you to peak into the lives of actors and entertainers from Glengarry's past, and ponder artefacts related to the performance arts housed in our collection. This black and white studio photo for instance, depicted above, portrays what is believed to have been a theatre group in Alexandria sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century. Thirteen actors are captured wearing various costumes representing common professions or pastimes of the era. The actors appear from left to right as a golfer, a kilted woman, a seated lady in a black satin dress, a baker, a gentleman, a rower in boating attire, a woman in military dress, a priest, a nurse, a graduate in cap and gown, a seated woman holding a paper scroll, and a lady wearing a white dress and large hat holding a parasol. One can only imagine the creativity, fun and laughter that this group may have provided to audiences in Alexandria and surrounding areas around the turn of the century! 

This photo was taken by photographer Duncan Donovan in his Main St, Alexandria studio. This photo belongs to a collection of retrieved glass plate negative photographs taken by Donovan spanning the years 1896 to 1924. Several of these photographic prints are currently on exhibition in the Loyal Orange Lodge of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, thanks to the work of the late, local historian, Dane Lanken and others.

Photo of the 33rd edition of Glengarry Life magazine, published in 1994. REF 2009-000-110.

During his time as a member of the Glengarry Historical Society, Lanken wrote several articles for Glengarry Life magazine pertaining to the local history of Glengarry County, some of which chronicling the fascinating life stories of early actors and entertainers who lived and performed in the Glengarry area. One such actor, whose story was featured in the 33rd issue of Glengarry Life in 1994 depicted in the photo above, is Rupert Mar. Mar was a well-educated stage performer who was said to have farmed in the Munroes Mills area from 1908-1915. Lanken uses the accounts of Dr. Royce MacGillivray, an Alexandria native and professor of History from the University of Waterloo, and Marion MacRae's retelling of her mother's recollections of life at Munroes Mills in the early 20th century to recount his story. 

Lanken describes that after failing to find fame on the London stage, Mar traveled with his wife, son and daughter to Canada where he purportedly participated in Sir Henry Irving's last company tour of North America in 1904. Eventually, Mar purchased a farm on the 7th Concession of Charlottenburg and worked in the Munroes Mills area, where he received much more praise for his solo performances rather than the quality of his work among the farm hands there. Aside from acting, Mar developed an excellent local reputation for his singing talents with his habit of singing in his back yard after his farm work had been completed in the evenings. He soon became a highly sought after act as an actor, singer and poet at every concert and neighborhood social in the Munroes Mills area. Mar brought his act back to Britain following the outbreak of WW1 when he was drafted into a concert group that performed Red Cross concerts for troops in England. Upon his return to the Munroes Mills area in 1918, he continued to perform there and in the Williamstown area until his passing soon after. Rupert Mar was long thereafter remembered at Munroes Mills for contributing to Glengarry County's legacy as a center of local music and entertainment.  

We look forward to welcoming A Company of Fools and all local Shakespeare fans to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum for the performance of Hamlet that is fast approaching on July, 27th at 7:00 pm. Drinks and deserts will be available onsite, or a boxed picnic by reservation. We hope to see you soon!

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