Saturday, 28 July 2012

TNL’s “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” mixes dinner and drama in Cow Head, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
A scene from "Sinking of the S.S. Ethie"
    “My goal is to create memorable performances about this place –Cow Head and Newfoundland in general -that will appeal to both local residents and visitors alike” Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s artistic director Jeff Pitcher told us recently.  And the dinner theatre performance of “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” fits this philosophy to a tee. This is the show that started it all for Theatre Newfoundland Labrador in Cow Head and it has been running to full houses since 1996. The play deals with the plight of the “S.S. Ethie” which runs into a particularly savage storm in December, 1919 while traveling off the coast near Cow Head. The dinner theatre venue at the Shallow Bay Motel was completely full on the night we attended  in late July, 2012 and we enjoyed a very good fresh cod dinner during the performance. Be sure to save your placemat since it features interesting newspaper articles of the day about the sinking of the “S.S. Ethie”. This performance gives the backstory to the reasons why the Ethie sailed that night as well as what life was like along this coast over 90 years.  We also learned that it was with a great deal of luck and through the Captain’s skill in running the “S.S. Ethie” into one of the only places where they could possibly make it ashore,  that none of the 60 passengers and 32 crew were lost despite the very stormy conditions.  A baby was even rescued by being transferred to shore in a mail bag! For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- or call 1-877-243-2899. 
Parks Canada Interpreter, Luke Payne, shows how to get a cod fish ready for drying
         Either before or after you see the show “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” be sure to visit the actual site of what remains of the “S.S. Ethie”. The marked turnoff is located just north of Sally’s Cove and just south of the Western Brook Pond parking.  You can see the rusted remains of the “S.S. Ethie” along the beach and Martin’s Point which figures prominently in the play can be easily seen to the south of the wreckage. To learn more about this coast we also suggest a visit to Broom Point (just south of Cow Head) and we recommend attending  the Parks Canada presentation about the Mudge family that used to fish these waters from 1941-1975. Interpreter Luke Payne did a good job of describing how labour intensive the fishery was (drying the cod and canning the salmon) before the coming of the road in 1959 when the product could be shipped out fresh. The video below shows a variety of other activities to check out in the Cow Head area while you are attending a Theatre Newfoundland Labrador show in the evening. 

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