Book launch for Walter Borden’s acclaimed play celebrates his life, legacy

Actor, playwright performs scenes from the latest version of his play, discusses writing process

3 min read
caption Walter Borden performs scenes from his play, The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time.
Meig Campbell

A captivated audience of more than 50 watched on Monday evening as actor and playwright Walter Borden passionately performed scenes from his solo play, The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time.

Borden said he wouldn’t have wanted to be “any place else” than in Halifax to celebrate the release of his play and his legacy, having started his 50-year career in the city.

“Everything has come full circle. This is where I began writing, this is where it was published,” Borden said. “It couldn’t be better.”

Borden, now 81, is a beloved Nova Scotian actor and playwright, who appeared on stages across Canada and who joined the Neptune Theatre company in 1972. Borden is also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and Portia White Prize, among many other accolades.  

He has been writing Tightrope Time since 1974 and initially presented it in 1986 when it was alternatively titled Tightrope Time: Ain’t Nuttin’ More Than Some Itty Bitty Madness Between Twilight & Dawn.

Tightrope Time is a semi-autobiographical play, in which Borden plays several characters that partly reflect his own experiences as a Black and queer man growing up in New Glasgow, and being a part of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Nimbus Publishing held the signing at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall as an event associated with African Heritage Month. The book launch at the event also celebrated the release of the fourth iteration of the play in paperback.

The audience, which included a former director of the play, family and long-time fans, asked Borden questions and shared memories of the playwright. Borden’s friend Astrid Brunner, an acclaimed photographer, facilitated an open dialogue about the play and his life.

“You can’t bury it, it takes its own time,” said Brunner, describing Borden’s unique writing process. “You can’t change it … it’s there, as a monument of the soul’s journey.”

caption Walter Borden and book launch moderator Astrid Brunner share a laugh onstage.
Meig Campbell

Borden changed and expanded his play with each passing decade. That tendency to never completely remove himself from his original play was met with admiration from the audience and Brunner.

Borden said he wasn’t bothered at having never completed the play.

“In order to do this work, I would have to live it before I wrote it,” Borden told the audience, I was always aware of that … It would be completed in its own time.”

The audience at Paul O’Regan Hall was treated to some of the passages of the completed version of Tightrope Time.

The segments, which touched on religion, childhood and parenthood, and the inevitable journey of aging, prompted laughter and a poignant response from Nimbus Publishing non-fiction editor, Angela Mombourquette, who thanked Borden for his time and the audience for attending the event. She says having this event in Halifax to commend the playwright is overdue and merited.

“I think Walter is an unsung treasure … he deserves to be celebrated,” Mombourquette said, “He’s so accomplished … and I think it’s good to have everyone out to acknowledge what a great artist, playwright, and author he is.”

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