In our August/September Aviation issue, we included an article about Ben Nind’s play, Bush Pilot. Although we included as much as we could, we felt there was more to the story of this historic play about planes, on planes. Here we’ve included special snippets from our chat with Ben Nind:
So the backdrop was, we would fly in on a plane, usually with this little beaver here, and then we would stop, another plane would be there, and that was the perfect setting. And then, planes would land, they would take off, the performance would rest when the twin otters came in, all of that sort of thing. The whole idea was to get a feel of the working dock. Telling stories on a working dock. So the interruptions would be all incorporated into the flow of the story.
UH: You would improvise?!
The show was cast basically from my experience with Murray Utis. I had done a couple of shows with Murray on a professional circuit down south and I invited him up to participate. Karen walked out of a restaurant, at that time it was the Yellowknife diner. She walked up and immediately saw me and said, “I wanna be in the show, I’ve heard about it, I wanna be in the show.” So I brought her into that. And then Lindsey I had worked with in a musical show when he was tiny, tiny, tiny. And he was just a remarkable storyteller.
I’m not particularly one who likes working a theatre itself. I’ve done enough of that over my lifetime. I think the greatest opportunities are always outside, they’re always in different environments. Whether you’re in a shock centre or outside on a dock or on a piece of rock, or however you wanna be able to do it. Or around the yard. When you do that sort of thing, you don’t have to build your set. Your set is there. You’re in Old Town, how much better can it get? So if you’re gonna tell bush pilot stories, where’s the best place to tell ‘em? On the dock. And that’s essentially the thought that went all the way through.
The response was huge, just in terms of the sponsorship we got, in terms of the businesses that came forward. The first person to lay money on the table was Mike Piro. I was sitting in [Prospector’s Bar and Gill], and he heard us talking. And then he walked over and he laid a hundred dollar bill, and he said, “I’m the first investor in this idea. I think you’ve got something here to be able to do that.”
Everything was donated. All the sponsorship was donated. The location was given to us by Mary and her husband. They ran Mary’s Tea Room. He knew the show inside out. He would stand on the balcony. We’d finish the show. He’d come off and say, “you missed a line!” He knew the show inside out. And after so many years.
We did it rain or shine. I remember one night right in the middle of it, all of a sudden this downpour came. And we yelled at everybody, “do you want us to stop?” and they all went, “No!,” and everybody was soaking wet by the end. Absolutely soaking wet. But we finished it off. And when we finished it off, sun broke. Rainbow. It was magical. Absolutely magical.
So, then, this is part of the script. You know what that’s from? That’s the pilot checklist. So you’re the co-pilot, I’m the pilot. I say, “Instruments?”
UH: All in the green.
UH: Charging. That’s so fun!
B: And we would do the movements because we would study the pilots as we were doing it, and many pilots who were there went, “Holy cripes. You got it all. Like I thought you were faking it.” And I say, “No!” We used to sit there with those guys for like an hour, and hour and a half, and go, what’s the exact movement. So, this was the introduction, and that began the stories.
So then I would get stuff. People sent me things, they saw the show. You can’t get better than that. There’s the real thing. So you have people that would all of a sudden reach out and say: (reading)
“I hope we will connect somewhere down the trail. Seeing bush pilot in Inuvik was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to the arctic. Mark is still talking about Bush Pilot when asked about his visit. And just like you were saying when we connected at the airport, when you can hold a 16-year-old’s attention for an hour, you’ve got something. I look forward to seeing Bush Pilot again soon. Keep in touch. And remember, always ride for the high points.”
We got a lot of them. We got a lot of letters and a lot of feedback.