In October, the lovely Salt-Water Moon that Factory produced last season will have a short run at the Panasonic, one of the Mirvish theatres. Directed by Ravi Jain, the show stars the wonderful Mayko Nguyen and Kawa Ada. This production has been called a "reimagining," as Ravi has stripped the play down to its essence: no set, no costumes, no Newfoundland accents. It's a Salt-Water Moon like no other, and it found a whole new audience at Factory. It's exciting to have the production moving to the Panasonic, into one of Toronto's commercial theatres. I can't wait to see the show again! Tickets are available from Mirvish.com.
Today I want to give a shout-out to PGC, an organization that works for Canadian playwrights in very many ways. David was a long-time member of the organization (which began as "Playwrights Co-op" in the 70s, then became "Playwrights Union of Canada" in the 80s, and is now "Playwrights Guild of Canada".) In fact, in 2010, David was made a Lifetime Member, an honour that he cherished. The PGC website says that it "champions the role of the playwright in the creation of vibrant Canadian theatre," and that is certainly true. But PGC is also a great resource for anyone interested in theatre. If you're a director who's looking for a play to produce, an actor looking for audition monologues, or a teacher looking for plays to read with your class, PGC can help. You can search their database yourself, or ask a staff member to help you narrow your search. You can often order copies of plays right from PGC, and if you need to obtain the rights to produce a play, PGC can steer you in the right direction. If you'd like to have a playwright visit your organization, school, or library, PGC administers a Canada Council program that can help to make that happen. The Guild also maintains a calendar of events pertaining to Canadian plays and playwrights. And of course, if you're a writer, PGC has all sorts of services available, from advice about contracts to news about which theatres are looking for scripts; from workshops for writers to promotional events. PGC keeps writers in touch with one another, and with what's happening with Canadian plays and playwrights from coast to coast to coast and around the world. Check out the PGC website for more information about all of the organization's services.
Mary and I arrived in beautiful PEI last week and were delighted to discover that the King's Playhouse in Georgetown is presenting Salt-Water Moon on Sunday evenings throughout the summer. We're looking forward to seeing it! Here's their charming graphic, and a link to their website.
I was lucky enough to be at the 2016 Dora Mavor Moore awards, thanks to my friend Byron Bellows, who is a trustee of the Bluma Appel Community Trust. It was a lovely night, with the ceremony happening at the outdoor theatre at Harbourfront. Great fun to see so many familiar faces and so much style! I was especially pleased to be present as Ravi Jain won the Best Director Award for his production of Salt-Water Moon at Factory. Congratulations to Ravi and to the whole creative team of the show!
A couple of years ago, my friend Mark Brownell asked me if I would come to his class at George Brown College and speak about David and his work. I gave a somewhat rambling talk, and really enjoyed answering students' questions afterward. Last year Mark asked me back, only this time after my rambling talk, students performed scenes from some of the plays, which was great fun. Finally this year when Mark asked me in, I realized that having a PowerPoint presentation might provide more visuals and result in less rambling. So I now have one: a 40-minute slide show that covers various aspects of David's life and work. The George Brown IPAC class was the first to see it! Shortly after I spoke at George Brown, my friend Mark Melymick asked me if I could come to speak to his Sheridan students, who were about to see Salt-Water Moon at Factory. (Not all of my friends are named "Mark", although some of the nicest ones are.) I replied, "I have a PowerPoint presentation!" and off I went to Oakville, where I had a wonderful time with about eighty lively Sheridan Prep students. Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga has a special relationship with David's work. Teacher Stacey Tiller has been doing scenes from David's plays with students for several years, and David used to speak to her classes whenever he could. A couple of weeks ago I took my PowerPoint presentation out to Cawthra, which was a moving experience. The students had recently finished working on the plays, and they had many questions about the characters and about David, too. If students at your school are studying David's plays and would like to know more about David's life and career, drop me a line through the website. I'll be happy to travel wherever I can with my slideshow!
This year Mary and I had a spring to remember. Soulpepper brought back its brilliant production of Jitters, and we were privileged to sit in on the first reading. Ted Dykstra's direction and the wonderful ensemble cast kept audiences roaring with laughter for most of March and April. Jitters was the last play that David saw performed, and the 2010 opening night at the Young Centre was the last one he ever attended. It seemed strange to be at this spring's opening without him, but I know how happy he would have been to know that Jitters was running again. In addition, Factory Theatre gave Salt-Water Moon an imaginative and non-realistic production directed by Ravi Jain. With only the words of the play (plus a little music and a lot of votive candles) Mayko Nguyen and Kawa Ada created magic. The play has been nominated for four Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including Best Production and Best Director. In addition, the Peterborough Theatre Guild produced Of the Fields, Lately as its entry for the EODL Festival, and the Scarborough Players presented 1949! March might as well have been declared "David French Month" in Ontario. Here's a link to an excellent article in the Peterborough Examiner that talks about the phenomenon. Sadly, I wasn't able to get to Peterborough to see Of the Fields, but Leslie and Mary and I saw the other three plays. In fact, I saw both Jitters and Salt-Water Moon several times each. Many of David's nieces and nephews (and grand-nieces and grand-nephews) came to see the plays also. My parents came to visit from Saskatchewan and went to see Jitters with Mary and I one night, which was extra special. A big thank you to everyone who worked on these wonderful shows. We send you our gratitude and love!
Here's a link to a great new article about Jitters from the Torontoist: "A Classic Case of Jitters". The writer, Martin Morrow, recounts the story of how David based the play on some of the experiences he had during the premiere production of Leaving Home, his first play. Morrow also talked with director Ted Dykstra and leading lady Diane D'Aquila about the show, and about working with David. Says Diane, “It’s very easy to just see it as a funny play, because it is hysterically funny, but you dig underneath it and you realize that it’s an incredible portrayal of the frailty and the fear in making art." I'm seeing the show tomorrow night with Mary and with my parents, who are visiting from Saskatchewan. Can't wait.
Ted Dykstra, renowned actor, director, and playwright, has directed all of David’s productions at Soulpepper. Beginning with Leaving Home back in 2007, the company went on to present Salt-Water Moon (2008), Of the Fields, Lately (2009), and Jitters in 2010. These beautiful shows were so important to David, and his collaboration with Ted gave his work new life and vitality. When David died, it was Ted who put together the magnificent tribute to him at Metropolitan United, and I will be eternally grateful to him for organizing and directing that fitting send-off. And our families are connected now in another way: over the past five years, Mary and Ted’s daughter Rosie have forged a friendship that manages to span the 13 subway stops between their respective neighbourhoods. It’s a real gift that we will get to see the remount of Jitters at Soulpepper this month. Thanks to Ted, cast and crew, and everyone at Soulpepper! Ted recently spoke movingly about this new production, and about the company’s connection to David:
This is the weekend that Jitters starts at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto's Distillery District! This remount features most of the wonderful actors who were in the 2010 production: Diane D'Aquila, Kevin Bundy, Mike Ross, Sarah Wilson, Jordan Pettle, and the incomparable Oliver Dennis. There are some great new additions to the cast, too, including Alex Furber, Sophia Walker, and Geordie Johnson as Patrick. Director and friend Ted Dykstra very kindly invited Mary and I to the first reading of the play, and it was splendid! We can't wait to see the show next week. The previous incarnation of Jitters at Soulpepper was really special to us, as it happened while David was very ill with cancer. He went in to watch rehearsals every day, and the Soulpepper folks took such good care of him. It was the last opening night that David ever attended, and Mary's first opening night. Such a perfect show for us at that time, the play David wrote about his adventures in the theatre, a show filled with laughs and love. Last time Jitters played at Soulpepper, the Toronto Star called it "a comedic masterpiece," and the theatre has already added some extra shows due to demand. See it if you can! Here's a link to the theatre's website: Soulpepper Theatre
I've just learned that the venerable Peterborough Theatre Guild is producing Of The Fields, Lately this month, too. The show closes on March 5, so see it this week if you can! However, the show is the Guild's entry in the Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival, so if you miss it in March, you can see it at the Festival, which runs from April 5 to April 9. Of the Fields, Lately will be performed on April 5th. Here's a link to their website: Peterborough Theatre Guild.