Ken Smedley is the author of a new play entitled The Rocky Mountain Prophet. (Lena Whittaker watercolour photo)

Armstrong playwright’s work delves into refugee crisis

Ken Smedley’s The Rocky Mountain Prophet published by Rich Fog Publishing in Vernon

Ken Smedley started writing the play in 1986 but found it as relevant as ever when it was published earlier this year.

The Rocky Mountain Prophet — A Tragedy In Three Acts, published by Rich Fog Micro Publishing in Vernon, is the life-long playwright’s most recent work and the eighth of Smedley’s published productions with Rich Fog.

Following the life of Uri Gregarious, an internationally renowned author known as The Rocky Mountain Prophet for his work giving a voice to the disenfranchised, Smedley’s play was inspired by events that followed the Vietnam War.

“There was an influx of refugees known as Vietnamese boat people. It was a bit of a contentious issue,” Smedley said. “(There was) a degree of skepticism in relation to taking in refugees.”

Gregarious, Smedley’s protagonist, is on his way home to Hinterland after a three-week trip to China after the conclusion of the war. Ever the ‘Rocky Mountain Prophet,’ Gregarious takes in one of such Vietnamese boat people he finds eating garbage from the dumpster behind his Hong Kong hotel. Smedley’s protagonist sponsors the beautiful young woman and brings her back to Canada where he intends to collaborate with her on an upcoming novel.

“This was kind of the perfect storm for him,” Smedley said.

But, when Gregarious returns home, he finds a myriad of problems awaiting his attention and life soon gets in the way of his plan.

Gregarious’ wife doesn’t want the refugee in their home, his father has returned and is on his deathbed, his stepson is adamant that the now-penniless Gregarious should purchase Hinterland’s hospital slated for demolition in hopes of converting the building to an arts centre and his publisher wields a three-week deadline above Gregarious like a sledgehammer.

“He’s got one thing after another. He becomes suddenly overwhelmed with all the different difficulties in his life,” Smedley said. “He’s backed into a corner and he’s trying to write his way out. As the play progresses, it continues to get worse.”

A true tragedy of classic Greek proportions, The Rocky Mountain Prophet denotes a new exploration for the Armstrong playwright and one that is as relevant now as when he wrote the first draft in 1986.

“When it comes to the plight of the disenfranchised, there are people in this society that do stand out for people that are voiceless. We’re at a point in our own country where we’re beginning to question,” Smedley said. “In Europe, it’s just one day after the next that these boat people come from all over Africa. It’s an unbelievable situation when you consider the scale of it.”

Smedley said that he often draws from the real world for his productions. And, despite having several published works, the magic never dissolves.

“There’s a real sense of satisfaction in actually getting the piece published. You really realize that in creating it and producing at this level it has been an effect of your own evolution and it’s a product of the self. There’s a definite degree of satisfaction that comes with realizing the fact that you created this ultimately for yourself and it’s an expression that’s validated,” Smedley said, adding that he one day hopes to see The Rocky Mountain Prophet on stage.

“You just never know — theatre is a crap-shoot. You’re a bit of an anomaly to be even doing such a thing. It’s not the most marketable work that exists. It’s a labour of love.”

Smedley has travelled the globe for his work in the theatre. He was a founding member of what is now the Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops where be began his playwright career. He was later employed in professional repertory theatre in England before living and writing in Mexico from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s.

He has also acted in numerous plays and made his directorial debut with George Ryga’s controversial production Captives of the Faceless Drummer in 1975. From 1995 to 2012, Smedley was also the artistic director of the George Ryga Centre. This year, Smedley participated in Caravan Farm Theatre’s National Playwrights Retreat alongside writers such as Peter Anderson, Scott Maynard, John Millard and Tracey Power.

And while he has done it all, Smedley said his heart belongs to writing.

“Ever since I was 16, I’ve been writing plays. It’s always been an outlet for my inner self to work at the craft of creating theatre,” Smedley said. “I’ll continue – that’s what I am and have been since adolescence. I’ll always continue to work as a playwright.

“At the end of it all when all is said and done, the play will be there as a legacy.”


@VernonNews
parker.crook@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lightning strikes across B.C. Interior

Residents are being asked to go inside until last rumble of thunder

Salmon Arm Fire Department adding all-terrain vehicles to fleet

City council approves purchase of two new side-by-sides for off-road access

Salmon Arm firefighters respond to report of smouldering railway track

Small hot spot reported near Pierre’s Point, passerby said to have extinguished it

New ways to play coming to Sicamous Beach Park

Sicamous council green-lights funds for floating play structures plus water and lighting projects

Alberta man drowns in Mara Lake near Sicamous

The 26-year-old man’s body was retrieved on July 16

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Lightning strikes West Kelowna condo

Fire crews were called to a building on Carrington Road Tuesday night

Lightning sparks wildfires in Vernon

Tuesday night storm causes wildfire in BX and residential fire in East Hill

UPDATE: Smoke rising from Okanagan Mountain Park hills

Lightning may have sparked a fire in the hills across from Peachland

Update: Lightning sparks blaze above Summerland

Firefighters are battling the small fire from the area that occurred Tuesday shortly after 7 p.m.

UPDATE: Crews battle wildfire near Big White

Joe Rich Fire Department responding alongside Big White Fire Department and provincial crews.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Pike Mountain fire continues to grow – quadruples in 24 hours

Fire threatens area consumed in 2017 by a 3,500 hectare blaze

Vernon Knights hire Van Horlick

New head coach of Junior B franchise in Armstrong

Most Read