If you’ve seen the last couple of posts, you’ll know that I’ve been corresponding with the wonderful Paquette family of Woodstock. They have a connection to David’s work that began with a long-ago production of Salt-Water Moon, and has continued through the years. This year their production of Soldier’s Heart for Theatre Woodstock was a family affair: Mom Jennifer directed the show, which starred dad Jason as Esau and their son Jacob as the character he was named after.
At Jennifer and Jason’s invitation, Mary and I took the bus to Woodstock the day after Valentine’s Day to meet the Paquette family and see the show. We arrived just before dinner, so Jennifer and Jason whisked us off to the Charles Dickens Pub for a great meal. The Charles Dickens happens to be owned by Ian Culley and his family — and Ian was playing Bert in Soldier’s Heart, so he stopped by to say hello, too. Over terrific fish and chips, Jennifer and Jason told us about their work with children’s drama groups in Woodstock, and about their past productions of David’s plays.
Then it was time to head to the theatre. It was obvious even from the lobby displays that a great deal of thought and care had gone into this show. Old photographs, maps, artifacts, and replicas of train schedules and tickets from Newfoundland in 1924 took us back in time before we even got to our seats. Once in the theatre, we feasted our eyes on the set — the absolutely solid-looking Bay Roberts railroad station. Every detail was just right — from authentic props and costume pieces to the replicas of old Newfoundland stamps on the letters in the stationmaster’s pouch. And then the lights went down, and we were truly transported!
Theatre Woodstock’s Soldier’s Heart was beautiful. Jason Paquette gave a powerhouse performance in the key role of Esau, the father tormented by memories of the war. Jacob Paquette was a perfect Jacob Mercer, finding depth and shades of emotion in the son who wants to help his father heal. And Ian Culley shone as Bert, Esau’s former comrade-in-arms in the Newfoundland Regiment. The performances were nuanced and deeply felt, and the story emerged so clearly. Members of the audience laughed, cried, and held their breath at moments!
It was a real privilege to be there, and I thank the Paquettes, Ian Culley, and everyone involved in making this show so very special. The Western Ontario Drama League honoured the show with several well-deserved nominations and four awards! They are:
Nominated for Best Actor – Jason Paquette
Nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Ian Culley
Nominated for Best Director – Jennifer Paquette
Nominated for Best Costumes – Team led by Chris Matthews
Winner for Best Performance 18 or under – Jacob Paquette
Winner for Set Design – Frank Baasner and Jennifer Paquette
Winner for Lighting Design – Rob Coles
Winner for Best Visual Production – Soldier’s Heart (this includes set design, set painting and decor, lighting, lighting operation, costumes and props)
Congratulations to all! Here’s a photo of us on that amazing set after the show.