Shirley Truscott presents Mary Schäffer

Shirley Truscott presents Mary Schäffer

Famous mountain woman revived

Performer Shirley Truscott honours a celebrated mountaineer with her historical enactment.

It’s not often we get a chance to peer backwards through the historical lens of our area, but when Shirley Truscott brings her multimedia historical enactment of Mary Schäffer, Mountain Woman to Pynelogs on Friday (June 15), prepare to get an intimate view of the life and times of a true mountaineering woman.

The performance is a Wildsight presentation and Wildsight director Baiba Morrow said she feels this particular performance is a great fit for Invermere.

“Wildsight is not just about protecting wildlife and wild places, it’s also about community, integrity and sustainability,” Morrow said. “People in the environment. One influences the other immensely. Mary Schäffer was a woman who was very much aware of the powers of the mountains.”

Morrow has known Truscott for a number of years and said she’s seen several other of her historical performances, in particular one regarding Lizzie Rummel, the well-known operator of the Sunburst Lodge in the Mount Assiniboine area who later received the Order of Canada for her work with the environment.

“As passionate naturalists and adventurous spirits, these women inspire me in my own mountain wanderings, musings, and discoveries,” Truscott said in a release.

“I think [Truscott] just draws out that era,” Morrow said. “Perhaps an era where some of us wish we’d lived, when things were a lot more simple.”

This performance focuses on Schäffer, a Quaker naturalist, floral artist, photographer and writer who first visited Banff in 1889, just as it was being discovered by the outer world. After repeated visits, she gave up a life of privilege in the United States to discover for herself the magic of the Rocky Mountains. A celebrity in her day, Schäffer gained notoriety by sharing her backcountry experiences with the many thousands who read her books and those who were lucky enough to see the public presentation of her lantern slides. As one of our premier mountain explorers, Schäffer was an adventurous woman ahead of her time.

“We wanted to bring alive some of the characters of that time,” Morrow said. “The ethics they held then are things that we still need to care about today… she interpreted her environment through her writing and her photography.”

The production also includes musical interludes from Banff cellist Elizabeth Sorochan, 35-mm images of Schäffer’s unique hand-painted lantern slides courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, and lyrical passages from her book, Old Indian Trails.

Mary Schäffer, Mountain Woman takes place on Friday (June 15) at 7:30 p.m. at Pynelogs. Tickets are $10 and are available at Pynelogs and The Book Bar. Doors open at 7 p.m. with a cash bar available.