The role of the role play

The Amherst News - - OP-ED - Clare Christie is a mem­ber of the Amherst News Com­mu­nity Ed­i­to­rial Panel. She can be reached at clarechristie0@gmail.com.

Al­most ev­ery­one will agree that mak­ing a pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion is not easy. But it can be both fun and re­ward­ing.

Some top­ics lend them­selves to au­dio-vis­ual sup­port. My cousin, David Christie, has done sev­eral pre­sen­ta­tions of his moun­tain climb­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. His slides trans­port his view­ers to the sit­u­a­tions he gets him­self into that are so out-of-our-world, we need the pic­tures to even be­gin to imag­ine what he saw and felt.

Show and tell works well if the pre­sen­ter has ob­jects that can be passed around. This sum­mer I at­tended a pre­sen­ta­tion at Fort Beause­jour where we were able to han­dle the arte­facts be­ing de­scribed.

I was asked to pro­vide the pro­gram for the Bap­tist Men’s Group in Novem­ber. I did a role play. Dressed in my great-grand­mother Sabra’s dress, I spoke as if I was ac­tu­ally her, speak­ing to the Men’s Bi­ble Study Group in 1897.

Why would I choose to do a role play?

Some years ago I was asked to present to Zonta about Grace MacLeod Rogers, the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed au­thor who lived and wrote in Amherst for forty years at the be­gin­ning of the last century. We ate rather a heavy lunch af­ter which I spoke - only to re­al­ize that I was putting my lis­ten­ers to sleep. The chair­per­son and I agreed that I should cut it short!

I had al­ready been asked to present on Grace to the Tantra­mar Se­niors’ Col­lege so you can imag­ine my con­ster­na­tion. It was my hus­band Brian who re­minded me how ex­cited I had been a few weeks ear­lier by a class about Henry Ketchum, the leader of the Ship Rail­way ef­fort in the late 1800s, which had been pre­sented as a role play.

I rewrote my pre­sen­ta­tion about Grace as a role play, sit­u­at­ing it at the time when she com­mu­ni­cates her and her hus­band’s de­ci­sion to leave Amherst to their son, Nor­man MacLeod Rogers, who has in­vited his par­ents to move to Kingston near his fam­ily. He is a busy par­lia­men­tar­ian so the phone call is brief but she then ru­mi­nates aloud about her life and the nu­mer­ous “firsts” she has ac­com­plished.

That role play has been a suc­cess with the Se­niors’ Col­lege, it brought tears to the Rogers fam­ily at their Re­union at Pic­tou Lodge, it was well re­ceived dur­ing sev­eral per­for­mances in the Val­ley at Grace’s birth­place and I per­formed a short­ened ver­sion here for an In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day break­fast.

By choos­ing to be Mrs. Ge­orge Christie in 1897, I was able to speak per­son­ally, shar­ing the dif­fi­culty of get­ting Ge­orge to marry me in the 1860s when he was try­ing to get Christie Bros. fac­tory go­ing, but I was get­ting up in my thir­ties and we wanted to have a fam­ily.

I drew on David Christie’s book­let on Christie Broth­ers to talk about the thirty year his­tory of both the busi­ness and how the com­ing of the In­ter-Colo­nial Rail­way in 1876 changed Amherst from an agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity to a man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre.

Be­cause the Bap­tist Church was built in 1895, I asked Brother Ed Colquhoun to help me read an 1895 news­pa­per ar­ti­cle about the Ded­i­ca­tion and build­ing of the church that had been saved by my daugh­terin-law, Mrs. Fred Christie, in her scrap­book.

The 25-minute role play was very well re­ceived and was men­tioned en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to miss­ing mem­bers. I hope the op­por­tu­nity of­fers to present all or some of it again.

My last 40 col­umns are now avail­able in Read More About Amherst, a book­let sell­ing for $13 or less at my usual out­lets. It would make a great Christ­mas present for Amher­sto­ni­ans who grew up here, live here now or who have just ar­rived.

To buy my publi­ca­tions, go to the Ar­ti­sans’ Gallery, Amherst Cen­tre Mall; Mar­itime Mo­saic, Dayle’s, Vic­to­ria Street, Amherst; Fly­ing Colours, Mac­can; and Main and Sta­tion, Parrs­boro.

Coles car­ries My dear Alice. For my seven self-pub­lished books and book­lets, go to the Cum­ber­land County Mu­seum and Archives and to the YMCA Amherst.

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