Yesterday I received a beautiful letter from Jennifer Paquette, a director whose production of Soldier’s Heart opens in Woodstock on February 8th. The Paquette family has a heartfelt connection to David’s work, and the Theatre Woodstock production of Soldier’s Heart features real-life father and son playing Esau and Jacob…but that’s just part of the story! Jennifer has kindly given me permission to quote her letter on this blog:
“Life Does Indeed Imitate Art”
A Love Letter to David French
This is our family’s story;
In the spring of 1991, I learned that I was being offered my directorial debut with a small community theatre in Woodstock, Ontario. The show was David French’s Salt-Water Moon. I was a 29 year old single mom who had lived and breathed theatre since I was a girl, and Mr. French’s plays had figured prominently in my development as an actor, director and writer. I had toured Ontario schools with a repertory theatre in the early 80’s and Leaving Home was in our line-up and was one of our most requested productions.
I was excited and nervous to finally have the opportunity to share my vision of one of a series of plays about the Mercer family, written by the man who was and remains Canada’s most important English speaking playwright.
I met my husband Jason when he auditioned for the role of Jacob Mercer. Obviously, he got the part, and, well, the rest as they say…
Our modest production of Salt-Water Moon ran in February, 1992 and surprised us by going on to win the coveted Best Production award at the Theatre Ontario festival in Sault St Marie that spring.
Jason and I were married in 1994. In May of 1995, Jason and I learned that we were expecting a child. We had been raising my two little girls together and I think we both knew instinctively that we were having a boy. We didn’t even need to discuss what his name would be. The day before I gave birth, my husband telephoned Mr. French and told him our story. He explained how our own love had blossomed while telling the love story in Salt-Water Moon. Then Mr. French and my husband spoke of the thrill of becoming a parent.
Jacob Anderson Paquette was born the following day, on February 1, 1996. Three days later, after returning from the hospital with our beautiful new bundle, a package arrived in the mail. We opened it to find a copy of Salt-Water Moon with this inscription:
Jan 31/96 (this was the night I went into labour)
To Jason & Jennifer,
who are proof positive that life does indeed imitate art.
– David French
We treasure this generous gift. But the story doesn’t end there.
In February of 2013, our son will play his namesake, Jacob Mercer in a production of Soldier’s Heart. His dad will play Jacob’s father, Esau. In July 2012, Jacob, Jason and I traveled to Newfoundland where Jacob stood at Coley’s Point, was officially “screeched in” and did a first read-thru of Soldiers Heart with his dad on the steps of the old railway station in Bay Roberts. And so continues our connection with the Mercer family. It is as if these characters are our kin.
Jason and I have been fortunate to share our love of storytelling with our children. We believe that our stories are our most cherished inheritances. We are reminded of this every time we hear our now adult children recall to their friends their favourite story about a play called Salt-Water Moon, and of how their parents met and fell in love.