Hour by Hour - Q&A with Ami McKay


We have been thrilled to collaborate with beloved author Ami McKay on The Hours Turn to Nothing. Together, we developed the concept for the show, and Ami wrote all the text in the production, as well as took the lead in developing a series of evocative soundscapes that mimic the sounds of Halifax around the time of the Explosion. Ami took some time to go a little more in depth about her process for us on today's blog!

You grew up in the United States. Did you know much about the Halifax Explosion before you moved to Nova Scotia?

I was born and raised in the Midwest and regrettably the explosion was never mentioned in any of my history lessons in school. I hadn’t even heard of it until I moved to Nova Scotia in 2000. Once I began the research to write The Birth House, I knew I wanted to include some of the circumstances surrounding that tragic event within the narrative of the novel. I’ve been in awe of the resilience of those who lived through it, ever since.

What draws you to write stories about women from this era?

They were on the cusp of tremendous change—not only because of The Great War but also because of the strides women were making to gain more personal freedoms in their lives. It was the era of the “New Woman.” So many of them shunned traditional roles to become trailblazers who fought for women’s rights, social justice, higher education, a place in the work force and, of course, the vote.

Are there particular stories that you uncovered in your research that stuck with you as you wrote the text for this show?

It’s so difficult to choose individual accounts from the whole. I was incredibly moved by the “matter-of-fact” attitude of the women who assisted in the relief efforts after the explosion. They didn’t waste any time. They saw a need and went to work. The personal accounts I’ve read all share one thing: a strong, unified voice that carries an unshakable spirit of compassion and determination. The things that have stayed with me the longest are the simple, personal recollections of the survivors—the mother who dressed her daughter in a pink dress before sending her child off to school; the sixteen-year-old girl who assisted nurses, midwives and doctors by carrying buckets of water through Camp Hill Hospital until she was too emotionally bereft to go on—they were true heroines, all.

You’ve written play scripts before. How was the experience of writing text for Xara different?

Although I’ve written plays and incidental music for the theatre, creating a narrative arc for this show required quite a different process. It was an exciting challenge to