PREVIEW | Bone Wars in the St. Albert Gazette

Punctuate! Theatre hosts world premiere of Bone Wars

Saturday, Apr 22, 2017 06:00 am

By: Anna Borowiecki


Bone Wars: The Curse of the Pathological Palaeontologists
Punctuate! Theatre
April 22 to 29
Backstage Theatre
ATB Financial Arts Barn
10330 – 84 St.
Tickets: $25 visit

Back in the late 19th century The Bone Wars also nicknamed the “Great Dinosaur Rush” marked a destructive rivalry between two scientists searching for reptilian fossils in rich bone beds throughout Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh were two palaeontologists, who at one time were friends, but increasingly resorted to underhanded methods to outcompete each other.

They stooped to bribery, theft, the destruction of dinosaur bones to ruin the other’s reputation. Ultimately, after exhausting their funds, they were socially and financially ostracized.

Today Edmonton playwright Matthew Mackenzie has borrowed that story and adapted it to a present-day Alberta landscape as a musical.

The result is Punctuate! Theatre’s world premiere of Bone Wars: The Curse of the Pathological Palaeontologists opening tonight at the Backstage Theatre.

From director Chris Bullough’s point of view, Bone Wars “is an epic journey through time and history. There’s a comedic element. There’s a tragic element. It’s really a cautionary tale.”

In Mackenzie’s adaptation, four precocious 11-year-olds and their guide are canoeing down the Red Deer River towards Drumheller when a thunderstorm forces them to portage for safety.

They discover an abandoned coalmine and enter it for shelter. Although different in nature, the four explorers are equally passionate about dinosaurs.

“They decide to go fossil hunting to pass the time. They discover some bones and start to unearth them,” says St. Albert actress Kristen Padayas, who plays Thulasy, a gal who knows her mind and stands up for her beliefs.

Just as the junior palaeontologists unearth bones, Morna (Beth Graham) looking like a Klondiker materializes from out of nowhere. Also magically appearing are Cope (Davina Stewart) and Marsh (Leona Brausen).

Soon everyone is embroiled in a quarrel and the children are tasked with determining which bone hunter is the greatest palaeontologist.

The decision-making challenges the children since they have to decide what matters most.

“In the end when people’s egos become combative and the political nature of the world takes over, everything goes away from the roots of what we should be doing – taking care of each other,” noted Padayas.

Bullough also sees reflections within today’s society that mirror the fated story of Cope and Marsh.

“They were contradictory in nature. They discovered tons and tons of dinosaur bones and basically created the field of palaeontology. But they also ravaged and disrespected the land. It turned into a pretty nasty competition and in the end they didn’t care as much enough about science and fossils as ruining the other’s reputation.”

With a cast of 13 actors playing a series of quirky characters, singing and dancing into pretzel-like positions, he’s hoping that tale resonates with audiences.

“Come see a wonderful group of super talented and dedicated actors bring the story of Marsh and Cope to life and bring the history of this planet to the stage – all with comic panache.”

The 75-minute Bone Wars is all-ages, a family friendly show.