This summer marks the 85th anniversary of the Nancy Drew series of fictional mystery novels. With that in mind, the Classic Theatre Festival’s annual theatrical walking tour, Perth through the Ages, kicks off a new story in the town core that features a character who is inspired by the teen detective’s spunky smarts and fearlessness.
Building on the success of last year’s Perth through the Ages story, “The Preacher and the Leading Lady,” this year’s hour-long presentation, staged by the Festival’s youth theatre training project, features upcoming talents performing Wednesday to Sunday at 11 am from June 24 to August 30. In addition, the troupe will also perform a new family-friendly Friday night event, The Lonely Ghosts Walk, beginning July 10 at 8 pm.
The daytime tour, which begins at Matheson House (the Perth Museum, 11 Gore Street East), is set in 1930, when 19-year-old Nora Shaw (the Nancy-Drew like character) is packing up her family’s belongings as the house is set to be sold and become a tea room. She is distracted, however, by a haunting tune coming from the garden, where she eventually meets the ghost of Ann Glascott, a nursery maid who was once employed by the Honourable Roderick Matheson, leading to a scandal that rocked the town.
Audiences will find remarkable similarities between the Perth of 1930 and that of 1830-40s: both were marked by economic desperation and poverty, towns dealing with the ill effects of alcohol consumption, and social structures in which women were often treated as second class citizens.
Ann wants her story to be told, and Nora, motivated by reading the first in the Nancy Drew series, is ready to tackle the challenge. Ann guides Nora through the streets of Perth, describing life as she knew it in the early days of the military settlement. They run into a series of significant historic buildings as well as characters including Malcolm Cameron, founder of the Bathurst Courier (now the Perth Courier) and William and John Bell (the sons of the stern Presbyterian Minister William Bell, a Calvinist who played a major role in the early years of Perth). Also appearing will be Mary McMillan, a former servant girl, then the wife of Captain Alexander McMillan, Roderick Matheson’s best friend.
The murky legal waters of another of Perth’s founding denizens, Daniel Daverne, lies at the heart of The Lonely Ghosts Walk, which will start each Friday at the Classic Theatre Festival (54 Beckwith Street East, at Harvey) and traverse through the historic Burying Ground, Court House, the Red House (Adamson’s Inn), the Morris store, the King’s Stores, and McMartin House. Along the way, a modern-day tour guide and descendant of Daverne is suddenly transported back in time to Perth’s early years, when her ancestor was, he felt, unjustly disgraced. Daverne faced charges of embezzlement and abuse of government powers as he tried to administer the complicated and conflicting demands placed upon him as superintendent of Lanark, Leeds, Grenville and Carleton Counties. The elder Daverne seeks to clear his name so that he can find peace and curtail his ghostly wanderings. To do that, he feels he must confront scions of Perth’s early history, including Rev. William Bell, Roderick Matheson, and his superior officer, Colonel Francis Cockburn, among others.
Fans of compelling theatrical recreations of local history will enjoy both events, told through the stories of redemption written and directed by Laurel Smith, with research by Susan Code McDougall, and starring Sean Jacklin (who played in last year’s walking tour), as well as Morgan MacDonald, Vivian Masswohl, Anna Stewart and Emily Richardson.
Tickets to Perth through the Ages and The Lonely Ghosts Walk are available online at classictheatre.ca or by calling 1-877-283-1283.