Wednesday, 29 October 2014 14:25

Upcoming musical drama provides new perspective on Cypress Hills history

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Stew Tasche is expressing a lifelong passion for the Cypress Hills in a new musical drama about a crucial time in the region’s history.

The Swift Current resident has been working for the past three years on the play The Cypress Hills would never be the same, which will be performed at the Lyric Theatre Nov. 13-15.
It highlights key moments from the history of the Cypress Hills between 1860 and 1880, including the Cypress Hills Massacre and the march westward by the North West Mounted Police (NWMP).
“I want people to know about the Cypress Hills because it was something that I was able to learn about as a very young child,” he said.
He grew up in Eastend and made his first visit to Fort Walsh when he was about six years old.
“My granddad and my father would take me out to the west block of the Cypress Hills to Fort Walsh,” he recalled. “It was a remount station then, so there were still a lot of horses around and it was a magical place for a kid.”
At that age he already developed an interest in the history of the hills and he considers the creation of this play to be 56 years in the making. He has gained a good understanding of the region’s past, but people still view events such as the Cypress Hills Massacre with a lot of emotion.
“Historically we don’t know and we’ll never know who shot first,” he said. “Some people will say this is what happened based on emotion and I sort of worked the other way — the history and then you take the emotion from the history. So hopefully that will work out because history is so open to interpretation, just like drama is so open to interpretation.”
He was a teacher at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School (SCCHS) and accompanied students on trips to the Cypress Hills. He realized people only consider the area to be a holiday spot with little appreciation for its past.
“So at that particular time I said at some point I’m going to do something with this and then it’s just been rolling around in my head for years and years,” he recalled. “A couple of years ago I decided that I had to do something with it. I wasn’t sure what, but I started writing the music for it first.”
He showed the music and lyrics to a number of musicians in Swift Current and they were immediately interested in the project. Tasche wrote the music and lyrics for six songs and collaborated with Dave Cyca, Eliza Doyle and Mark Penner on two other songs. These three local musicians will be joined by Ed Doyle on stage during the performance of the play.
Tasche is excited about the involvement of SCCHS drama teacher Stefan Rumpel as co-director and actor in the role of a NWMP officer.
“I’d known Stefan for a long time,” he said. “He was one of my former students and I’ve always really respected everything that he does because he is so incredibly talented.”
SCCHS student Keegan Browne plays the role of a teenager who joined the NWMP for adventure, but became disillusioned during the long march.
“He’s a very strong member of the cast,” Tasche said. “There was nothing spectacular about the march west. It was a horrible time for those people.”
Award winning actor and storyteller Joseph Naytowhow presents the Nakoda point of view, which is an essential element of the play.
“You can’t deal with the Cypress Hills without dealing with the aboriginal part of things,” Tasche said.
A group of American wolf hunters played an active part in the conflict during the Cypress Hills Massacre and the two wolfers in the play are performed by Gord Nodge and Doug Sawatzky.
“Our wolfers are both first timers, but I don’t know if I could have found two better wolfers,” Tasche said. “They’re absolutely incredible. They look mean and they look rough and they look tough and they’ll perform some of their material right amongst the audience and so it will keep everybody on their toes.”
The other members of the artistic and production team are Nekaneet First Nation singer and drummer Jessie Eashappie and artist Cyndi Tasche, who is responsible for production, set and costume design. Mike Tetrault is the music sound technician while Chris Harrow and Rachel Wormsbecher will be responsible for sound and lighting.
“It started off as something much smaller in my mind, but has grown to the proportion that it is a pretty dynamic production,” Stew Tasche said.
He described the entire artistic and production team as very talented and easy to work with.
“Without those people this will be absolutely nothing because they’ve been so spectacular,” he said.
The play is just over an hour long, but the audience can look forward to an additional twist that will be provided by the prelude. It will set the scene for the start of the play, but Tasche does not want to revealtoo much.
“So when people come in they can watch what’s going on, they can talk, they can get their drinks, they can do whatever,” he said.
For the Nov. 13 and 14 performances the prelude will start at 7:15 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m. The Nov. 15 performance starts at 7 p.m. and includes buffalo stew and biscuits. This production is a fundraiser for the Lyric Theatre. Tickets are available at Pharmasave, the Lyric box office or online at For large group and table bookings, phone 306-773-6292.
More information about this historical musical drama is available on the website at

Update: The Nov. 13-15 performances were sold out by Nov. 2  with a large waiting list, which resulted in a decision to add another evening performance on Nov. 12. The prelude will start at 7:20 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m.

Read 4378 times Last modified on Monday, 03 November 2014 10:15

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