A pivotal time in Barrie’s history takes center stage at the November meeting of the Simcoe County Historical Association. Danielle Kostrich, who co-wrote a play about Barrie and the First World War will be talking about her research process, how she turned reality into drama and the difficulties in choosing who to include as characters.

“There were hundreds of stories and many of them didn’t make it into the play,” said Kostrich. “That was one of the toughest things. It was a very emotional piece to write. I didn’t think it would be interesting at first but I really became connected to these people. Now every time I go by the war memorial I have to read all those names.”

The play, We Must Have More Men! Barrie and the Great War (WMHMM), was successfully staged by Theatre by the Bay at several Simcoe County communities in 2016 and 2017. Kostrich wrote it in conjunction with Alex Dault, Theatre by the Bay artistic director.

Kostrich grew up in Barrie, went to Prince of Wales Elementary School, Barrie Central Collegiate and majored in drama with a minor in English. She has had a long time interest in theatre, has acted in numerous shows and even won an ACTCO Adjudicator’s Award for Outstanding Performance as Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables (2005). She has also had a long time desire to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. Now, she marries both interests running drama programs and staging plays at a local elementary school.

“Teaching is something I really love to do,” she said. “I find it really fulfilling. I love acting as well and definitely really need to keep it alive for myself.”

While she took a break from acting to start her teaching career, she went back to the theatre last spring for a role in South Simcoe Theatre’s Harvest Moon Rising.

Her husband, Joshua Doerksen, who she met in Grade 5, wrote all the music for WMHMM. The play was a year in the making between interviews with family members, local historian Clint Lovell, Major John Fisher of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters, along with lots of research, which included reading every issue of Barrie ’s newspapers from 1914-1918, soldier diaries and Canada’s national archives.

Some of the cast of 10 represented characters such as George Livingstone (Livingstone St. is named for him), Ernest Hanmer (Hanmer St.), W.A Boys (Boys Block) and Justina Calderwood, who was Barrie Red Cross president from 1914-1918. Andrew Neelin, a current member of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters reserve regiment, has an interest in theatre and depicted his 100-year-old counterpart Frederick Grandy, a Barrie high school teacher killed at the Battle of Arras in 1918.

The play also took in aspects of the community from the arrival of hydro to Carnegie Library, the Barrie Fair and the happenings of town council meetings.

Kostrich’s presentation takes place Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Huronia Room at Barrie City Hall. It’s open to all and donations are welcome. Visit simcoecountyhistory.ca for more information.

Photo: Danielle Kostrich, who co-wrote a play about Barrie and the First World War, will be speaking about the process at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Simcoe County Historical Association.

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