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Western Edge debuts play about family of CFB Comox pilot who disappeared

‘Our Ghosts’ tells story of playwright’s father’s plane crash and mother’s resilience

When Sally Stubbs was young, her father went missing and her mother spent the rest of her life trying to find out what really happened.

In 1958 flying officer Gerald Stephen Stubbs and his co-pilot disappeared during a flight from CFB Comox. Although wreckage from the plane has been found over the years, the bodies of the two men were never recovered. His widow Claire kept up the search for her husband and for the truth.

“Her love story was like a fairy tale, really,” Sally said. “And I think that’s probably because it ended early, I mean when things are at their best and they end, and she never wanted to remarry.”

With her mother’s permission, Sally, a Vancouver-based playwright, has spent the past five years adapting that part of her family history into her new play, Our Ghosts. She said it was a topic she had to explore.

“It was the big story that defined the life of my mom as well as myself and my brother,” she said.

Sally said at first it was difficult to write such a personal story, but soon it became “absolutely compelling.” She credits the members of her all-women writers’ collective for giving her support.

“I would go into the writing group and I was bringing in photographs and letters that my mom had written…” she said. “And we would read some of it and look at it and I would be crying, which was probably terrible for them, but they were great.”

In Early 2018 Nanaimo’s TheatreOne presented a staged reading of Our Ghosts and on Oct. 25 Western Edge is presenting the debut production of the play at the Harbour City Theatre.

Director Wendy Wearne said she was drawn to the play because it is a true story with an Island connection. Stubbs has been attending some rehearsals and Wearne said it was a rare and valuable chance to speak with a playwright and seek her input and insight.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to work directly and hand-in-hand with a playwright,” Wearne said. “Very often they are from another country or in such a position that you cannot get a hold of them or they’re dead, which is another very good reason why you can’t necessarily get a hold of them.”

“It’s felt very collaborative and very welcoming and I think they seem to be doing a great job and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out,” Stubbs said.

Sally said Our Ghosts is the most important work she’s done. She said she “dug deeper” writing the script and said that people have been responding to the play because of “the truth of it.”

“I think it’s been very good for me to do and I think it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Western Edge Theatre presents Our Ghosts at the Harbour City Theatre, 25 Victoria Rd., on Oct. 25, 26 and 31 and Nov. 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $12 to $25, available online.

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Kate, played by Terry Lynn Boyle, tries to discourage her mother Moira, played by Clarice McCord (from left), from searching the Coast Mountains for her husband’s remains in Our Ghosts by Vancouver playwright Sally Stubbs. The play, based on the true story of Stubbs’s father’s disappearance, is being mounted for the first time by Western Edge Theatre starting Oct. 25 at the Harbour City Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)