CBC Radio Interview About FHTS and Fundy Fringe Festival

Father Hero Traitor Son

“Would you strike your father?” “Would you hang your son?”

Photo by Elizabeth Sawatzky

From the CBC website:
“The Fundy Fringe Festival Opened This Week”

Evan Andrew Mackay is a playwright and actor who’s home from Toronto to stage his new play Father Hero, Traitor Son.


Premiere Happens to Fall on 71st Anniversary

A chilling discovery in my ongoing research for my play “Father Hero Traitor Son” which is to premiere in a few hours, on August 21.

My play refers to an escape attempt by four Canadian POWs; and while drafting a dedication I was looking up their full names, and discovered the date of their ill-fated escape attempt.

“On Friday, August 21st, 1942, four members of our group escaped from North Point including Sgt. John Payne H6016, L/Cpl. George Berzenski H6700, Pte. John Adams H6294 and Pte. Percy Ellis H6771 .” http://www.hkvca.ca/historical/accounts/williambell/chapter5.htm

71 years to the day. Let us remember them.

A Piece of History On Stage

The bandolier my grandfather wore at Vimy Ridge

The bandolier my grandfather wore at Vimy Ridge

All my life, whenever I have faced hardships, I have imagined the hardships faced by my father’s father, at the age of 16 (yes, underage) fighting on the battlefields of Europe in “the war to end all wars“. Puts things into perspective. Growing up, I was told many times, “you are just like your grandfather”, and I always took that as a great compliment.

In just a few days, I am going to be on stage at the Saint John Arts Centre portraying another Canadian veteran of World War 1. The character of “Father”, in my new play Father Hero Traitor Son, is based on the great grandfather of a close friend of mine. Although this man, Tadashi Inoue, died in 1926, I know his grandchildren and great grandchildren, and through them I heard his story before researching the story of his infamous son, Kanao Inoue, “The Kamloops Kid”. The character of “Son” will be played by Sean Patterson, whose father served in the Korean War.

Research tells you only so much. Having known my grandfather, as well as the family of the figures I am portraying, brings me closer to imagining the facts and ideas of the story I have adapted for the stage. Something else brings history onto the stage for this production. As this is a Fringe Festival production, costumes (et cetera) are going to be rudimentary, but I am going to be wearing the bandolier (pictured above at the war memorial in King’s Square, Saint John, NB) which my grandfather, gunner John Hunter Mackay, wore at Vimy Ridge, and other battles, which brought Canada to the attention of the world.

Many times I have been told that my grandfather rarely talked about his experiences in the war. I remember the one time he chose to describe to me a nightmarish moment. What matters more to me than the war stories I never heard is that he survived the war and lived until I was old enough to appreciate knowing him. In some small way, he will be with me on that stage as we tell some shadow of a story he might have told.

Father Hero Traitor Son is featured in an article on the Fundy Fringe Festival which was published today in HERE Magazine (page 15, if you pick up a copy).

Fringes of History: The Kamloops Kid, Canada’s War Criminal

In 1947, the same year that Edinburgh started a festival to rekindle the human spirit following the war, (see previous post, Fringe History) a Canadian citizen was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death. How did that happen?

In the First World War, during which Canada and Japan were allies, a Japanese immigrant named Tadashi Inoue enlisted in the Canadian Army, served overseas, won the Military Medal for bravery in the field, was severely wounded in the final weeks of the war, but returned to his wife and five children in Kamloops, BC.

Inoue’s youngest child and only son, Kanao, was born and raised in Kamloops. As a young adult, after his father had died, Kanao went with his mother to Japan to further his education during the mid 1930s.

Being a nation of limited resources, Japan had sought to expand its territory and had long been in conflict with Russia and China for control of Korea and Manchuria. The Japanese military was accountable to the Emperor rather than to the civilian government. From era to era the Emperor’s role alternated between figurehead and absolute ruler. Either way, dictates by the Emperor or in the Emperor’s name were not subject to checks and balances. In the 1920s and 1930s, Japan became increasingly nationalistic and militaristic. Training and treatment of enlisted soldiers within the Japanese military was brutal.

Whereas in WW1, prisoners of war in Japan were treated well and many German POWs, for example, chose to remain in Japan after the war ended, in WW2 treatment of POWs in Japanese camps was often savage. Camp commandants operated with great independence so long as they achieved assigned objectives. Of 1,973 under-trained, ill-equipped, inexperienced Canadian troops sent to defend Hong Kong (which Churchill had rightly deemed indefensible), 25% died (of starvation, disease, abuse, execution) while held as POWs. One of the prison camp interpreters at Hong Kong was Kanao Inoue.

This play, Father Hero Traitor Son, aims not to open old wounds and it is not, in its current form, a historical account. Although many incidents and lines in the script are based on or taken from historical accounts, I have fictionalized the immigrant’s “old country” and named it Ozerland, to focus not on blaming nations but on the actions of individuals. The characters of the Father and the Son, although based on the lives of historical figures (who are ancestors of a dear friend of mine) are products of my imagination.

This is a play about choices, fate, and identity. What defines a person as a Canadian, a hero, a traitor, a father, a son? Most accounts written in English assert that Kanao Inoue, who was dubbed “the Kamloops Kid”, voluntarily enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army. In this play, I question that assertion. In no way do I want to make an apology for the brutal actions of “Canada’s war criminal”. I wanted to examine the possibilities of what such a man and such a father as he had would have said to each other if they’d had the chance.

Please post your thoughts and comments, and please come see “Father Hero Traitor Son” which opens on August 21st.

Father Hero Traitor Son poster by Tim Maloney

Father Hero Traitor Son, by Evan Andrew Mackay (poster by Tim Maloney)

Fringe History

Ambiguous? Yes and yes. First, a brief history of the fringe festival phenomenon. Then, some background on the source material for Father Hero Traitor Son, taken from the fringes of history, and concluding with the tiny history of this production so far.

A Brief History of the Fringe Festival Phenomenon

Once upon a time there was an international festival in Edinburgh called the Edinburgh International Festival which, in 1947, “grew out of the rubble of the Second World War with the aim of providing ‘a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’.” (Keep that year and epoch in mind as you read on.) The EIF continues to present “the best classical music, theatre, opera, dance and visual art from around the globe.”

But back in that first year, several uninvited theatre groups showed up and decided to perform without authorization, hither and thither around the fringes of the actual festival. The fringe festivities caught on and became known as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which is now the largest arts festival in the world.

In 1982, Edmonton decided to try presenting the fringe without the anchor of a primary festival, and thus began the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, the first and biggest Fringe Festival in North America. There is now a Fringe circuit spanning the globe, and in this way some performers go and get seen all over the world. The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) formed in the 90s to ensure that, whereas for the unjuried and uncensored shows and performers anything goes, each Fringe Festival sticks to the guidelines so that all Fringe Festivals remain festive and fringy.

In 2013, Saint John Theatre Company redirected energies from its former Theatre on the Edge festival to form the newest Fringe on the circuit, the Fundy Fringe Festival. Thank you SJTC!

Stay tuned for Fringe History, Part 2: The Fringes of History, in which 1947 and the rubble of the Second World War will figure once again.

Father Hero Traitor Son

Father Hero Traitor Son in the making

A Week of Firsts for “Father Hero Traitor Son”

First audition — Congratulations Sean Patterson!

First blog post (see previous blog post)

First scenes practised

First radio interview recorded (broadcast pending. It will be on CFMH-FM – Local 107.3 FM Saint John, NB – Listen Online – TuneIn)

First photos (just a hint of things to come)



Please note, the Fundy Fringe Festival performance schedule is undergoing changes. (Dates remain unchanged: August 21-25.) Stay tuned for new times to be announced in a few days.

Father Hero Traitor Son: a new drama; an old story

Military Medal WW1 for bravery in the field

An immigrant becomes a Canadian war hero. Decades later, his son is on trial for war crimes against Canada. What would they think of one another? What would they say to one another? Inspired by a true story from Canadian history, Father Hero Traitor Son fictionalizes “the old country”, which could be any country in any era, and explores the conflicts and bonds between father and son and nations.


Father Hero Traitor Son is a new feature-length drama by Evan Andrew Mackay, premiering in Saint John, New Brunswick at the inaugural Fundy Fringe Festival from August 21 to 25 at three different venues around the city.


Cast: Sean Patterson and Evan Mackay


Father Hero Traitor Son performance schedule. All performances will be held in the Tompkins Studio Hall mini-theatre at the Saint John Arts Centre, 20 Peel Plaza
Phone: 506-633-4870

Note: performance begins at a different time for each date!

Wednesday August 21st 7:30pm

Thursday August 22nd 6:00pm

Friday August 23rd 5:00pm

Saturday August 24th 7:00pm

Sunday August 25th 1:30pm

(approximate running time 75 minutes)

Fundy Fringe Festival