The ruins of the medieval Cloth Hall in Ypres, Sept. 1917 are depicted on the left half of the image. The right half is a reflection, in red, of the left half.

Guelph Museums’ McCrae in the Mirror #GCFGrantStories

Today in #GCFGrantStories, we feature Guelph Museums’ McCrae in the Mirror, a play funded through the Guelph Community Foundation’s Musagetes Fund.

Since 2004, the Musagetes Fund, a donor-advised granting stream, has provided grants to registered charities (or organizations partnered with a registered charity) that provide contemporary art and culture programming, emphasizing new approaches to building community and culture.

McCrae in the Mirror is a one-act play that introduces new perspectives on the legacy of Lt. Col. John McCrae. Led by Guelph Museums, the play’s themes included colonization, memorialization, and ‘our current-day quest for equity and peace.’ Six local theatre professionals were provided work opportunities because of this project.

The play was performed at the McCrae House Backyard Theatre in Guelph and the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium, in August 2022. Nearly 300 people attended the shows, and the reviews were exceptional: “thought-provoking,” “every Canadian should see this show,” “the best Backyard Theatre presentation I’ve seen, and I’ve seen them all.”

The most significant takeaway from the play’s run was the audience’s readiness to embrace new perspectives. Staff were concerned the play was risky because it interrogated the legacy of Lt. Col. John McCrae and First World War memorialization, as traditional narratives were interpreted through a lens of decolonization. With credit to the playwright, Mike Ford, who was able to honour past understandings while inspiring new thinking through a well-crafted script and engaging performances, audiences were enlightened and moved by McCrae in the Mirror.

A man who identified himself as a military veteran attended one of the Guelph performances and engaged with staff in a lengthy conversation about decolonization, selective remembrance, and the power of art to shed light on truths about difficult histories. His response and encouragement strengthened their conviction to continue to seek out and share new and diverse perspectives on traditional narratives, support healing and reconciliation, and reflect on history to pave the way to a better future for all.

The play is soon set to be filmed and made available as a digital stream.

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