Profile: David Weale
by Jane Ledwell
Everything in UPEI history professor David Weale's office is Y2K compliant-no sign of an appliance with a microchip of any kind. Before we talk, he copies out lines from his new one-man-show, Greenmount Boy, in long-hand on lined paper. But microchips or no microchips, David Weale has caught a different kind of millennium bug, because he's writing about the end of the world. The first page he hands me reads, "There's a lot of talk these days about the end of the world, but that talk is a little late. A world already ended…in my lifetime…and yours."
"I would say there are a lot of people alive today who have experienced the end of two worlds, the world of rural PEI `before the break' and the end of the world of their own childhood vision," he says. His new production, he says, "wants to say we can't get back to old PEI, but we can get, can long for our childhood vision." The way back to childhood vision, for David Weale, is through nostalgia. "Real" nostalgia, for him, is a way to "look back to see the world whole, before we got programmed into adult practicality."
In his previous books-Them Times, An Island Christmas Reader, and, most recently, A Long Way from the Road-the way back to a more whole vision has been through other people's stories, stories from the Island's oral tradition. Greenmount Boy follows a different path back, a path through David Weale's own experience as a boy growing up in Greenmount, PEI.
It is tempting to say that Greenmount Boy marks a departure from more traditional storytelling; as he admits himself, "Most traditional storytellers only slightly inflected themselves in their stories." But David sees the new play as more an arrival than a departure. Through his own story, he will explore themes that have prevailed in all his previous storytelling. Most importantly, he will explore the origins of his fascination with the invisible world, "the drama being worked out beneath the surface in human affairs." On one level, he traces this fascination back through a long line of coal mining ancestors-a line that ended with his father. On a symbolic level, he traces the image through Christian history back to the Garden of Eden.
Greenmount Boy will use David's own story as metaphor for "the break" in PEI culture: that time of cultural, social, and economic change that resulted in the Island being transformed from an oral to an entertainment culture, from an agrarian to a corporate way of life. In previous shows, when he told others' stories, he offered a "way back" for Island society, through remembering what had been lost. In his new show, he is hoping to offer a "way back" for individuals, through recapturing "the season of grace in the life of every child," the Edenic time before the child learned to judge the world.
The themes David is aiming at might seem complex, but his telling will keep its characteristic simplicity, and the show itself will be simply staged, focussing on the voice that tells the story, the voice of the boy himself. David Weale's Greenmount Boy will play weekly at the Georgetown Theatre throughout the summer, with special performances at the Victoria Playhouse and at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre in Summerside.