Friday, August 20, 2004

Don Cherry plays John Simcoe

Don Cherry playing John Simcoe at Trinity Church, Wolfe Island

Wolfe Island, Aug 20 2004 - Don Cherry made his stage debut in a costume that made his regular sports jacket look conservative.

"How do I say this? Arkigological??", Cherry asked a reporter before he went on stage in a humble church hall on Wolfe Island. Cherry descended from his pickup truck wearing a white wig, three-corner hat, full length riding boots and a flaming red 18th Century British soldier's jacket.

A few days before, Cherry had been driving past the Anglican church that he attends when he's at his home on Wolfe Island, a large island near Kingston, Ontario, Cherry's birthplace.

Cherry saw three women rehearsing the opera and stopped to talk to him.

They were Augusta Cecconi-Bates, the Opera's author and keyboard player, flutist Carrie Wyatt and singer Rhona Gale, who are the only musicians the show had. They immediately told him "It's an opera - and we need you to be MC" Wyatt said. "He said 'What am I doing Friday?' and 'What do I have to do?'".

Everyone on the island knows Cherry, who often walks his fullblood Staffordshire terrier, one of the breeds that are called "pit bulls", along the narrow roads and shoreline.

Cherry, who's been appearing on national TV for years, said he was nervous before he walked out in front of the stage to an audience of about 150 people, many retired cottagers with their grandchildren mixed in. The tiny stage had a backdrop of brown wrapping paper, and was decorated with hand-knitted afghans.

Cherry was dressed as a "Royal Yorkers", an American regiment that stayed loyal to the British during the revolutionary war in 1776, and settled in Canada after they lost the war.

Cherry introduced the opera "Molly Brant", about a Mohawk clan mother who married an English official and brought the Yorkers and other loyalists to Canada after they lost the war.

Cherry introduced the author and players, and told Brant's story, reading in his familiar gravelly voice from a hand lettered script that did not save him from constantly mispronouncing archeology.

Cherry said he took the role to promote knowledge of Canada's history.

"99 out of 100 kids in school in Canada don't know who Molly Brant is, in the States they know George Washington, Benedict Arnold - We got the best country in the world, and we don't teach our history!"

Cherry knows a good deal about local history, and remembered that Stan Jonathan, one of his players with the Bruins, was a Tuscarora Indian, one of the other members of the Six Nations Confederacy the Mohawks are a part of. "I asked him if he was a hunter - he said 'No, I'm a warrior'!" Cherry said.

Cherry said that he doubted next season would be cancelled because of a strike. "I don't think the owners are dumb enough - I don't think the players are dumb enough" because a strike would kill a few of the weaker franchises, but thought the season might be delayed til January.

Asked whether he'd want to pursue a career as a actor, he said "Not if I gotta say "Archeological" again!"

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