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Live action and film blended at Tranquille in new play

Treasure trove of photos and documents leads to The Cooney Papers, a new production at Tranquille Farm Fresh beginning Oct. 19
Cooney field Tranquille
The east field at the Cooney property gets its last cut of the season, seen in this undated photo. The Cooneys are the subjects of a new play at Tranquille Farm Fresh, beginning Oct. 19.

The latest production at Tranquille Farm Fresh is a history-rich tale of the empire built by the property’s founders, Charles and Betsy Cooney.

The Cooney Papers is the work of Tim McLeod and Andrew G. Cooper, who co-wrote the production set to be staged in front of the loading docks at the Tranquille tunnels.

The family-friendly show will be a blended presentation of live theatre and film shown on a purpose-built 37-foot-wide screen.

The property at 4600 Tranquille Rd. goes by a number of names — Padova City, the Tranquille Sanatorium, Tranquille on the Lake — but one of its first names was the Diamond C Ranch, founded by Charles and Betsy Cooney in 1869.

The property at the mouth of the Tranquille River became a historically significant site for the region, and the ranch itself came to be known as the finest in all of B.C., McLeod said.

After the Cooneys built a horse empire, they became the first to ship apples to Ontario in the 1890s and were a significant contributor to the creation of the B.C. Fruitgrowers Association, according to McLeod.

“And, the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, way back when, held its inaugural meeting through Tranquille,” he said.

McLeod called Charles a “pioneer of pioneers” and “kind of like the Steve Jobs of the 1800s,” in terms of his business acumen.

McLeod and company have been working with material related to the Cooneys for years, with previous productions like The Witness. But the source material for this play came directly from the Cooney family.

Cooney house
The house at the Cooneys' Diamond C Ranch, one of several historical photos revealed to the creators of a new historical play that blends film and live action.

“The opening scene is a re-enactment of what happened — them coming to us with a cardboard box, really a treasure trove of information. It got us thinking what a great story this would be,” he said.

The box contained photographs from the 1800s, a book the family had written about Betsy and even the title deed to the land, McLeod said.

To build off of what was revealed in that material, McLeod said there were also hundreds of hours of research at museums across the province, including Kamloops’ own, and reaching out to the Hudson’s Bay Company to look at archives.

Along with being history rich, McLeod said a lot of thought has also gone into how the play is presented, including the work of voice actors to provide voices for Irish characters like Charles. The play will also feature additional materials in the space around the stage.

“You’ll be seeing photographs of the family as you walk through the tunnels and then come up to the space to sit down,” he said. “Basically you will be walking back into history. We call it preparing the soul for the show.”

The Cooney Papers features actors Aaron Shufletoski, Matt Chernicki and Deedra Ladouceur, with video and post-production work by The Kludak Collective.

The show will run on weekends beginning Friday, Oct. 19, and ending on Saturday, Nov. 9. Tickets are $40, available online at tranquillefarmfresh.com.