'Before Corner Gas': Rural Sask. play Dogbarked back by popular demand

Angus Ferguson from Dancing Sky Theatre believes he knows why his company's play Dogbarked has become an audience favourite since it debuted in 2005.  

"It's looked back fondly upon by many, many people and when we did it 15 years ago, this was before Corner Gas, this was before a lot of things," said the artistic director.

"We're a rural Saskatchewan theatre company. Meacham's a tiny, little town of like 85 people and rural people weren't that used to seeing themselves portrayed in the culture."

Dancing Sky Theatre is celebrating its 20th season by bringing Dogbarked back to the stage at the company's home in Meacham, Sask., which is about 60 kilometres east of Saskatoon. 

Back by popular demand

The play was chosen by an audience poll after the company decided to mark its milestone anniversary by bringing back one of its most popular productions.

Written by James O'Shea, Dogbarked explores uniquely Saskatchewan themes about the contrast between rural and urban cultures.

The story follows two brothers, farmers who are struggling to make ends meet with their gas station after a highway was rerouted from the town, cutting down on traffic and profit.

The brothers spend their days drinking beer and thinking up new money-making schemes.

"One of their plans is to start a new town and perhaps a resort, even, with a golf-course," said Ferguson.

"And this particular day we find them trying to come up with a name for the town, and the name they come up with that they fall in love with is Dogbarked."

City and country worlds collide

On the same day, two television producers driving from Toronto to Vancouver break down near Dogbarked.

The play explores what happens when their two worlds collide.

"[There is] sort of the clash of big city urban Canadian culture suddenly hitting the bare prairie and these two farmers," he said.

"Part of it is about that, the contrast between urban culture and rural culture, and also about that eternal Saskatchewan tension of leaving and staying."

Ferguson believes most Saskatchewan residents at one point experience the pull to move away to other provinces or bigger cities.

Only in Saskatchewan 

He chose to stay in Meacham, having decided with his wife that the country was the best place to live and raise their children.

Reflecting on the 20 year history of Dancing Sky, he said the company's success seemed "completely improbable."

That's partly because the 100-seat theatre can host more people than the population of the town, and because the company produces new Canadian work in a rural setting.

"We sort of said, 'This is what we do, we make theatre, we tell stories, let's find out if anyone's interested,' and they were," said Ferguson.

Dogbarked runs from May 5-21 in Meacham.