Short Waves, Short Stories

"Hearts and Flowers" is a short story by two-time Governor General Award nominee Tomson Highway, adapted and directed as a radio-phonic performance piece by David Ferry. This year's "Short Waves, Short Stories" presentation tells the story of a First Nations' boy discovering his own humanity against the backdrop of his life in a Manitoba Residential School.

Year four of 'Short Waves, Short Stories' continues this exciting program, which takes a prose piece and live broadcasts a dramatic reading of it with spontaneous musical accompaniment. To date this popular program has presented works by Michael Winter, Ramona Dearing and last summer's bus trip adaptation of Tom Smart's and Christopher Pratt's "Driving to Venus." This summers literary adaptation is Tomson Highway’s story “Hearts and Flowers.” It relates the bittersweet experiences of an eight-year-old Cree boy from northern Manitoba, living and studying at a Residential School hundreds of miles removed from his family, whose personal triumph at a small-town music festival takes place on March 31, 1960 – a day a day to be celebrated and to be remembered in association with Canada’s shameful racist past. The boy, Daniel Daylight, has been taught to believe by his grade three teacher that Indians are not human, “not according to the government; not by law." Young Daniel knows that his transcendent piano performance changes history. He knows it, he says, because he “played it."

 

Authors Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies, accompanied by Paul Quarrington on guitar, Sandy Ross on drums, and Tomson Highway on piano, rehearse for a PEN writers' group benefit concert in December 1990. (Photo: John Mahler/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Authors Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies, accompanied by Paul Quarrington on guitar, Sandy Ross on drums, and Tomson Highway on piano, rehearse for a PEN writers' group benefit concert in December 1990. (Photo: John Mahler/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Tomson Highway was born in a snow bank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters. He had the great privilege of growing up in two languages, neither of which was French or English; they were Cree, his mother tongue, and Dene, the language of the neighbouring "nation," a people with whom they roamed and hunted.

Today, he enjoys an international career as playwright, novelist, and pianist/songwriter. His best known works are the plays, "THE REZ SISTERS," "DRY LIPS OUGHTA MOVE TO KAPUSKASING," "ROSE," "ERNESTINE SHUSWAP GETS HER TROUT," and the best-selling novel, "KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN." For many years, he ran Canada's premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts (based in Toronto), out of which has emerged an entire generation of professional Native playwrights, actors and, more indirectly, the many other Native theatre companies that now dot the country.

He divides his year equally between a cottage in northern Ontario (near Sudbury, from whence comes his partner of 29 years) and Gatineau Québec, at both of which locales he is currently at work on his second novel. In 2013, he published his most recent play, "The (Post) Mistress; a One-Woman Musical" and released the accompanying CD, "Patricia Cano Sings Songs from 'The (Post) Mistress.'