LEWISPORTE/TWILLINGATE — This weekend will be an exciting one for theatre fans as Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador (TNL) presents the award winning play, Tempting Providence.
The production will take to the stage of the NorthEast Church Heritage Museum in Twillingate at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 14. Tickets can be purchased from members of the NorthEast Church Heritage Museum committee, Twillingate Pharmacy, AGA, C & R Variety or by calling 884-2862 or 884-2294.
Sponsored by the Lewisporte and Area Heritage Society as part of its program to foster the appreciation of history and culture, Tempting Providence will also take to the newly-created theatre space above the By the Bay Craft Shop and Museum in Lewisporte at 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 15. Ticket information is available by calling the gift shop at 535-1911.
Telling the story
Tempting Providence is a play which tells the story of Myra Bennett, a British nurse, who came to the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland in the 1920’s.
According to Gaylene Buckle of TNL, Nurse Bennett’s district extended from Sally’s Cove to Port aux Choix, 320 kilometres of rugged coastline with the sea as the only highway. Bennett’s medical career along that stretch of coast became the stuff of legends, with her being known throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as “Florence Nightingale of the North.”
Daniel’s Harbour was an isolated community at that time. There were no roads or railway connecting the community to the outside world. There was a coastal steamer, but it operated only in good weather. The nearest hospital was the Grenfell Mission, established in St. Anthony, several hundred miles to the north.
During Bennett’s tenure she estimated that she delivered 750 babies and extracted 5,000 teeth. Her greatest feat of medical skill came in 1926 when her brother-in-law, Alex, slipped and fell into the teeth of a lumber saw and almost severed his foot. Cleaning up the wound as best she could, Bennett proceeded to stitch the severed foot back onto the leg. She did such a good job that he kept his foot.
With the help of her husband, Angus, Bennett managed to find time to raise three of her own children, four foster children, be involved in the church, make her own bread, tend a garden, milk the cows and make clothing. While she officially retired in 1953, she continued to help people, whenever she was asked, long into her retirement.
Nurse Bennett received many awards and honours in her lifetime, and was the subject for articles, a television documentary and the book Don’t Have Your Baby in the Dory, by H. Gordon Green.
Myra Bennett passed away in 1990 at age 100.
Since Tempting Providence premiered at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in 2002, it has toured to more than 100 communities across Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canberra, Tasmania and the United States; as well as playing nearly every summer at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival.
With more than 500 performances, more than 70,000 people have seen Tempting Providence. Now, 10 years later, TNL is bringing the play to the intended audience, and many won’t have to leave their communities to do so.
It is also worth noting that the play has a connection to Lewisporte, with Wally Snow being the lighting designer.