‘Billy Bishop Goes To War’ to open at Blyth Festival
BLYTH — Born in Owen Sound, the second of three children, Air Marshal William Avery “Billy” Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, LL.D. (Feb. 8, 1894 – Sept. 11, 1956) was a Canadian First World War flying ace, officially credited with 72 victories, making him the top pilot in the British Empire.
Bishop’s heroic exploits come to life in a new Blyth Festival production of Billy Bishop Goes to War, a sweeping theatrical love letter to a defining moment in Canadian history, on stage at Blyth Memorial Hall from July 2 to Aug. 15. Written and composed in 1978 by John MacLachan Gray in collaboration with Eric Peterson, Billy Bishop Goes to War is one of Canada’s most successful and enduring plays.
The original production, starring Gray and Peterson, toured across Canada, played on Broadway, at the Edinburgh Festival, and in Los Angeles, Washington and London. The play won the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award in 1981, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award in 1980 and the Governor General’s Award for English Drama in 1983.
Billy Bishop Goes to War is the first play in a new series at Blyth Festival. “It launches our Memorial Series,” says Blyth Festival’s Artistic Director Marion de Vries. “We will present one play each season from 2014 to 2018 dedicated to exploring stories of war and peace, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War,” adding that the series also honours Blyth Memorial Community Hall, built in 1920 as a living cenotaph and home to Blyth Festival for 40 years.
“It’s our unique way of recognizing those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” she says.
By Shawn Loughlin, the Citizen, July 2, 2014