Bringing Billy Loutit to life

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Theatre Athabasca opens play on Loutit’s journey to Edmonton, The Endurance of Billy Loutit

The story of local Métis hero Billy Loutit was brought to life at the Athabasca Riverfront Park through the opening night of a one-man play by Theatre Athabasca July 14.

The play, entitled The Endurance of Billy Loutit,  told the story of Loutit, a mailrunner who ran from Athabasca to the town of Edmonton in 1904 to deliver message of a flood. Over 20 people attended the opening performance created by local talent, which took place outdoors at the Athabasca Riverfront Park.

Director Cheryl Andrews said she felt the performance went well and Loutit’s story was an important one to tell.

“It’s part of our local history and I think it’s a story that we don’t know a lot about. There isn’t a lot that’s been told about it even in the history books, being a Métis man,” Andrews said. “We feel it’s a very important story to share and celebrate this hero from our town.”

The play showcases the journey Loutit took to get to Edmonton, including challenges with another man delivering the same message on horseback, navigating difficult terrain and dealing with exhaustion along the way. The play also featured musical accompaniment by Jonathan Hawkey of the local Hawkey studios.

Local playwright Frazer Andrews wrote the play and said much of the journey itself was fictionalized as there was not much in history books about it.

“Really about imagining what that would have been like for somebody to run that distance. The things he would have encountered and sort of fitting it all into a dramatic structure,” he said in an interview.. “It’s a very inspiring story and I think it’s important to tell stories that aren’t in the history books.”

Actor Nathan Loitz of Fort McKay performed as Billy Loutit and said he thought the performance went well. He added he was glad to recognize a person like Billy Loutit.

“I love the idea that we’re recognizing a Métis man from 100 years ago that maybe didn’t get as much recognition as he deserved,” Loitz said in an interview.

The play also highlighted the discrimination Loutit would have faced as a Métis man.

Marlin Johnson attended the July 14 performance and said he thought the play was well written and provided good insight in addition to portraying Loutit’s run.

“Gives some insight into the Métis world and I appreciated that,” Johnson said in an interview. “The way life was for some of these folks and the way life still is for some of these folks.”

Cheryl Andrews said Theatre Athabasca has ideas for the future of the play after its initial July showings, including touring it or performing at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

“We’ve got some room for those opportunities so it would be nice to see it go beyond this summer. We’ll see,” she said.

Loitz said he hopes audience members took local history and a bit of Loutit home with them.

“I hope they see this man, a real person, who was just so hard working and light and joyful and maybe take a little piece of him away with them,” he said.

The play will run for four more showings at Athabasca Riverfront Park July 21, 22, 28 and 29, all starting at 7:30 p.m. The show is free for all to attend but donations are accepted.

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Joseph Quigley