One day Damiano Pietropaulo, the Director of Radio Drama, came to me with a proposal. He was putting together a series called “Where is Here? The Drama of Immigration” for Monday Playbill. He had in his hands an unpublished memoir written by a former immigration officer by the name of Arthur J. Vaughan. Damiano wanted me to adapt Arthur’s memoir into a kind of a drama and hire Gordon Pinsent to play the part of Arthur.
I was happy to be given the opportunity and immediately set to work adapting the memoir, but I just could not lift it off the page. Before long I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to work, Gordon Pinsent or no. The best thing, I figured, would be to just get Arthur himself to tell all the stories he’d written about.
The only problem was that all the stories in question took place just after the Second World War. I didn’t even know if Arthur was still with us. He would have to have been in his eighties. But I picked up the phone and discovered that not only was Arthur still with us, he was sharp as a tack and enthusiastic about telling his story.
With Damiano’s blessing, I booked a studio for Arthur in Halifax and another studio for myself in Toronto, and Arthur and I spoke for about an hour. At this time Arthur was eighty-five years old. Only afterward did I realize just how inconsiderate I had been. Once we wrapped up our conversation and said goodbye, I heard Arthur say to the technician in Halifax: “I like to talk, but by the jeez! That was long,” and I realized what an idiot I had been.
I had many opportunities to correspond with Arthur before and after the interview, and speak with him on the phone, and I came to really like him. Such a gentleman, warm and smart, all of which I believe is evident on the show that resulted from our conversation.
Sadly, shortly after the initial broadcast, Arthur became ill. I phoned him up and asked him how he was doing.
“Miserable,” he replied.
It turned out he had leukemia, and I do not believe that Arthur wanted to go gently into that good night. Later, his daughter informed me that when he packed his bags to go into the hospital, among the few possessions that he took with him was a CD copy of the show we’d made.
Being able to tell his story obviously meant a lot to Arthur, and it means a great deal to me to have been able to make it happen for him in the last year of his life.
Unbeknownst to me, Damiano arranged to publish the entire Where Is Here series with J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing, under their Scirocco Press imprint, which specializes in drama. My interview with Arthur appeared in Where Is Here: The Drama of Immigration (Vol. 2).
Years later, a woman by the name of Diana Lobb contacted me for the rights, looking to produce One Officer’s Experiences for the 2016-2017 season of the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre. I was stunned and delighted to learn that my work with Arthur had been published and made available to theatres for production. After establishing that I owned the underlying literary rights, I was only too happy to grant Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre the rights for nine performance dates.