Running a really local show

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Theatre Athabasca writes and produces play on local hero, The Endurance of Billy Loutit

The stage manager, the musician, the director, the actor, the subject matter – The Endurance of Billy Loutit is set to be a very local show.

Produced by Theatre Athabasca, the one-man play is about the local Métis mailrunner Billy Loutit, who delivered the message about the 1904 flood in Athabasca from the town to Edmonton. He made the run on foot in 16 hours, beating the messenger on horseback by an hour.

Director Cheryl Andrews said Loutit’s run was inspiring, and the crew is excited to fill in any gaps people might have when it comes to his story.

“It’s pretty exciting for us to tell his story, this local figure, this local hero,” she said. “Our play takes place from the morning of the water, the ice breaking – and then the flood happening, and then he gets sent to run, and (you) see his journey, the adventure, and getting message to Fort Edmonton.”

Andrews said the playwright, Frazer Andrews, has learned a lot about who Loutit.

“Our play focuses on a short period of time in his life,” she said. “But he really is this incredible character that we know some things about, but hopefully will help people know more about him. Be proud of this man that’s from our town – who lived here, anyway. He’s from Fort Chip.”

Loutit is being played by actor Nathan Loitz, who said a lot of his family grew up in Fort Chipwyan, and is from Fort McKay.

He said he grew up in Fort McMurray, and he remembers seeing Loutit Street there.

“I think it’s wonderful that we could tell his story, because I think he might have been looked over for his accomplishments,” he said. “I think it’s great that now we can kind of put a spotlight on this guy, a Métis guy who worked hard, had this wonderful work ethic, and values like family, integrity and pride.”

Loitz said he believes the day Loutit ran to Edmonton “was just another day for him,” in that he just did the hard work because it had to be done.

“You just do it,” he said. “There’s no conflict or struggle. It’s just a fact of life. You do it, and you do it with pride.”

At rehearsal June 10, Loitz said the play is going “beautifully.”

“What a wonderful team we have,” he said. “The script is wonderful. My hat’s off to Frazer. He really brought something new and exciting, and something that’s specifically about Athabasca and it’s history.”

He also said stage manager Lori Claerhout and Jonathan Hawkey from Hawkey Studios, who is writing the music, are wonderful, too.

“It makes our job so much easier,” he said. “I have nothing but gratitude when it comes to those two.”

The play will run at Athabasca Riverfront Park, July 14, 21, 22, 28 and 29. Each showing starts at 7:30 p.m., and is free for all to attend. Donations will be accepted.

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Allendria Brunjes

Allendria is the publisher of the Athabasca Advocate.