Board­mores at Beaton

Fifty years of the­atre pro­duc­tions needed a home

Cape Breton Post - - COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS - Todd His­cock

Harry and El­iz­a­beth Board­more’s im­pact on the the­atre com­mu­nity in Cape Bre­ton is well doc­u­mented and cel­e­brated.

In 2016, the 50th an­niver­sary of the Board­mores’ ar­rival on the is­land, and sub­se­quent re­vival of lo­cal the­atre, was ac­knowl­edged in an ex­hibit at the Syd­ney His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Cu­rated by Lind­say Thomp­son, the in­stal­la­tion en­ti­tled “Threads Through Time,” fea­tured many Board­more ar­ti­facts, pho­tos, cos­tumes and props.

The show­case high­lighted the Board­mores sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural con­tri­bu­tion to Cape Bre­ton Is­land and shone a light on the im­pact their friend­ship and guid­ance had on gen­er­a­tions of per­form­ers and au­di­ences.

Thomp­son’s ex­hibit in­spired me to re­turn to the tall, grey fil­ing cabi­net I in­her­ited from Harry and Liz.

Harry Board­more kept metic­u­lous records of all the plays pro­duced by the Dra­m­a­group. He care­fully cre­ated a file for each play, each pro­duc­tion’s ti­tle neatly printed on the top right cor­ner of the folder. Ev­ery en­try in­cluded news­pa­per ar­ti­cles, re­views, pho­tos, pro­grams and scripts.

Af­ter 50 years of play (and file) pro­duc­tion, the old fil­ing cabi­net be­gan to tilt from the weight of Harry’s ef­forts. Yet, the cabi­net’s con­tents were, and are, much more than the sum of their in­di­vid­ual parts.

They were tan­gi­ble re­minders of all that had been ac­com­plished. They held value to those in­volved in the plays and to the pub­lic, who shared a com­mon re­spect for the cre­ative arts and pride in our lo­cal tal­ent. Fur­ther­more, the col­lec­tion pro­vided con­tent for re­search projects fo­cus­ing on com­mu­nity eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment through the arts and on com­mu­nity the­atre as a model for or­ga­ni­za­tional be­hav­iour.

For­tu­nately, Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity is home to the Beaton In­sti­tute, the of­fi­cial repos­i­tory for his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant records of the uni­ver­sity. Ad­di­tion­ally, the in­sti­tute is a cul­tural her­itage ar­chive man­dated to pre­serve the so­cial, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural his­tory of Cape Bre­ton Is­land.

The Board­more col­lec­tion well re­flects this scope and pur­pose. So, I be­gan to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of hous­ing the Board­more col­lec­tion at the Beaton In­sti­tute.

As dis­cus­sion pro­gressed, the op­por­tu­nity to in­volve stu­dents evolved. The Beaton of­fered CBU stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to work in the ar­chive as in­terns.

The in­tern­ship pro­gram be­gan in 2010 as a six-credit course. For ap­prox­i­mately nine hours per week, in­terns worked with staff to de­velop and ex­e­cute a project plan aligned with the stu­dent’s re­search or per­sonal in­ter­ests.

I was asked to su­per­vise Daniel Far­row, his­tory ma­jor/ Dra­m­a­group mem­ber, as he worked on the Board­more col­lec­tion for the Beaton.

Far­row spent an en­tire school year cat­a­logu­ing and dig­i­tal­iz­ing the col­lec­tion. He was able to cre­ate an up­dated, search­able pdf that is fully ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic. He also cre­ated pro­files for Harry and Liz Board­more, which can be ac­cessed through the Board­more Col­lec­tion’s page and by search­ing the dig­i­tal ar­chive.

Work­ing on this project was a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for Far­row. As he said, “the op­por­tu­nity to work with this col­lec­tion was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for me, as a his­tory stu­dent. I was able to work hands-on with a col­lec­tion that was di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with the his­tory of Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity.”

Far­row de­scribed the Beaton In­sti­tute as “a lab” for his­tory stu­dents. He said, “we do not work with chem­i­cals or equa­tions, but it is a space where his­tory stu­dents can ex­pe­ri­ence life as a his­to­rian.”

The Board­mores con­trib­uted deeply to Cape Bre­ton’s rich the­atre his­tory. Like Far­row, there are many who feel lucky to have been able, ei­ther with or be­cause of Liz and Harry, to cre­ate lo­cal the­atre, to cel­e­brate its suc­cess, and to help so­lid­ify a col­lec­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the the­atre arts, here at the uni­ver­sity and on the is­land.

The Board­more col­lec­tion can be found at https:// beat­onin­sti­


Cast of “Win­nie the Pooh” in 2000 at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity’s Board­more The­atre.


Chad Mac­Don­ald, Wilma Men­zies, Gary Walsh were mem­bers of the cast of “Henry IV, Part 1” in 1990 at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity’s Board­more The­atre.


Colleen MacIsaac as Juliet in a 2000 stage pro­duc­tion at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity’s Board­more The­atre.

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