For 68 years Ada Anne Jordan lived on an isolated property carved out of the coastal rainforest on Clayoquot Sound 32 miles northwest of Tofino and accessible only by floatplane.
There she outlived four husbands, raised 11 children and became known as Cougar Annie for her hunting proficiency. In 1985 the colourful frontierswoman passed away at the age of 96.
In 2007 the charitable foundation that owns the land hired Sooke-based singer-songwriter Katrina Kadoski to act as caretaker on the property. There, inspired by the legend of Cougar Annie, Kadoski began writing. She soon began performing those songs by kerosene lamp to university groups visiting the property’s rainforest research centre.
In 2010, facing financial difficulty, the organization let Kadoski go, but Cougar Annie stayed with her. She continued studying Annie’s life by reading historical documents and interviewing family members.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to help the foundation to keep going with the story, but I also, on a personal level, really liked pursuing the research. I thought it was really interesting,” Kaodoski said.
“I learned a lot about history, especially when I discovered the letters and things that people were actually saying to each other from a personal point of view. At that time I just started to get really fascinated and then it kind of naturally developed into a theatre piece after I found the audiovisual component in those historical documents.”
With help from two Victoria-based theatre directors, Kadoski built her Cougar Annie-themed repertoire into the stage production Cougar Annie Tales, which she performed for the first time in 2012. In the show, an elder Annie recalls her life and other characters make appearances while relevant archival photographs and scanned documents are projected onto a screen. Kadoski has travelled to Alberta and Manitoba to perform for Annie’s descendants and she said each time the experience has been emotional.
On March 1 Kadoski brings Cougar Annie Tales to Nanaimo’s Harbour City Theatre. Afterwards she will give a performance with her folk duo the Edgedwellers.
“I don’t know now if it’s my responsibility or if just something I like doing so I find ways of doing it,” she said of bringing Cougar Annie’s story to new audiences.
“On one hand, yes, I think part of me, as a storyteller, has a responsibility to tell stories that resonate with me, that give me a window into humanity, that tells a life story that causes people to reflect on their own life.”
WHAT’S ON … Katrina Kadoski presents Cougar Annie Tales at the Harbour City Theatre on Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance at Fascinating Rhythm or $18 at the door.