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Frank and the Elephants in festival finale

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

It was the award winning play that spawned the local history movement for TNT Theatre.

Based on the true and funny story of the 1926 Cranbrook elephant stampede, the play fired the imagination of Nelson thespian and TNT artistic director Richard Rowberry, and whetted his appetite for bringing segments of history to life on the stage.

It also earned Rowberry the Canadian One Act Play Competition title in 2004. And this weekend, the play begins the first of its two-weekend runs at TNT Playhouse (corner of Ward and Carbonate).

“This is the story that got me started doing local history,” said Rowberry, “and I wanted to do it one more time before putting it away. I thought about playing it myself but really it needs a young actor and Cloud (Edwards) is a perfect Frank.”

The play is also the final chapter in the Nelson Arts and Heritage Festival — a multi-week potpurri of the best of the arts in Nelson.

In the span of one act, the play explores the escape of six elephants from the Sells Floto Circus and the subsequent media frenzy that accompanied the search and fates of the various elephants.

It is a true story, based on actual newspaper reports. Rowberry added a fictional element in his hero Frank (Edwards) and his role in the 1926 federal election which was happening at the same time.

“This was a very important election,” he explained. “With a constitutional crisis, a corruption scandal, and a minority government, it’s really interesting and pretty funny how nothing ever changes in Canadian politics.”

The production also includes the use of almost 100 photographs and authentic newspaper clippings to illustrate the story.

Tickets are $15 adults, $10 students available at the door. Showtime is 8 p.m. and shows run Thursday to Sunday.