Singer/songwriter Kat Kadoski has captured the spirit and courage of a legendary west coast pioneer in a show that’s coming to the City.
Cougar Annie Tales runs April 25th at 2:30 p.m. in the Snell Auditorium, which is located in the downtown branch of the Red Deer Public Library.
Advance tickets ($15) are available at 53rd Street Music. They can also be purchased at the door for $18.
Cougar Annie (Ada Annie Jordan) was a California-born west coast settler who made her way to Vancouver Island and worked tirelessly to raise her family while working her family’s land.
Along the way, she outlived four husbands, trapped more than 70 cougars, homesteaded a rainforest bog and opened a remote post office.
There’s also a direct connection to Red Deer – her daughter Helen Beecroft lived in Red Deer for many years, and passed away just last year.
But back to the start.
Cougar Annie settled in the Clayoquot coastal rainforest in 1915 with her first husband and three young children. Ultimately, her five-acre garden provided food and income throughout her life. It was also on this remote location that she gave birth to eight more children.
She died at 97 in Port Alberni in 1985.
Kadoski’s introduction to the compelling story of such grit and determination came about – interestingly enough – on a date.
“I was actually on a first date and I asked the guy who I would end up going up there with – I didn’t know that at the time – if he could go any place in the whole world, where would he go?
“He said, ‘Cougar Annie’s garden’.”
Kadoski, who lives near Victoria, had never heard of this woman, but as she started learning about her, she was drawn into the amazing story.
“A few years into our relationship, we went up there for a trip and then about a year after that, a job there came up,” she said. “It was during that time that I got pretty deep into the idea that I wanted to tell the story.”
She ended up living for three years in Clayoquot Sound caretaking Cougar Annie’s garden and learning more about this woman who pretty much personifies the word ‘survivor’.
“First, I wanted to write songs about it, but it ended up becoming much more than that,” she said, adding that working on Cougar Annie’s property even changed her own world view. “I was always raised in the City. I grew up in Fort McMurray and later moved to Vancouver Island. It was just such a different experience – wild and in the rainforest – and living off the grid for the first time in my life was a real game-changer,” she added.
“So I really admired her because she lived out there for so long, and it’s such a different lifestyle.”
Cougar Annie Tales uses dramatic narrative, images, letters and original compositions to celebrate the unconventional life of one of B.C.’s most colourful characters.
And as mentioned, she was married four times. After her first husband’s death, she put an ad in the Western Producer seeking a partner.
A man from Red Deer responded. He later died from an accidental gunshot wound.
Her third husband died in 1955 and she would later marry a final time but the union was not successful.
As to the concept for penning a play, it was suggested to Kadoski that she should turn the story into a theatre piece.
“I started exploring it, and soon enough, all of the pieces started falling into place,” she said, adding there was tremendous support along the way via local directors and scriptwriting workshops.
“Everybody that I needed to work with showed up – so it just kind of happened.”
Feedback has been tremendous.
“A lot of people are amazed and moved – it’s a pretty powerful story. It’s also a great story to tell because it’s about survival and tenacity and how to keep going when it seems like the odds are stacked against you. How do you find the will to keep going? I think that has staying power.”
On another note, Kadoski and Peter Wahl will also be performing on April 20th as The Edgedwellers at Red Deer’s Forgotten Alley a few days prior to the production at the library.
Their style? Upbeat cabaret style folk/roots/pop, engaging storytelling and heartfelt ballads with stirring harmonies.
They will also play a set of music following an intermission after the one-act play.