Leaving Home at Cawthra S.S.

March 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

About a week ago I received a notice from David's agent Charlie Northcote that Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga will be performing Leaving Home during the last week in April. I wrote to teacher Stacey Tiller to ask if she'd mind sharing a few details with me to post here as the show progresses. She wrote me a beautiful email about what David's work -- and his personal interest -- has meant to their school. I will quote some of it here: "I was delighted to hear from you as your late husband's work has played an important part of our theatre education here at Cawthra for many, many years. In fact, two years ago, David came in to our school to talk to our Grade 12 students about playwriting.  They were amazed and inspired.  In our grade 10 year we study all of the Mercer plays for our Canadian Theatre unit.  That collection of plays are my all time favourite plays and am thrilled to be able to direct Leaving Home. Writing on the blog would be just fine!  And as soon as we get some production photos, I'll send them on to you along with our poster.  If you need further information, please let me know. I'd be more than happy to oblige. Thanks so much for your interest. My condolences on David's passing.  While I didn't know him personally, his work will always have a place in my heart and at our school." Thanks, Stacey. David was often asked to do school visits, and sometimes it took up a whole day, as he always used public transportation. He usually came home energized and inspired by the students and their interest in his work. It's great to know that students appreciated his making the effort to talk to them.

Leaving Home in Orillia

February 9th, 2012 § 1 comment permalink

Break a leg to the cast and crew of Mariposa Arts Theatre's Leaving Home, which opens tonight at the Orillia Opera House. Paul Blanche, who plays Harold in the show, sent me a copy of the beautiful poster he designed for the production:    Michael Clipperton, the director, wrote an article for the February 2012 issue of The Green Room that gives some insight into the cast's rehearsal process. He's kindly given me permission to quote from the piece here: “In his first play, Leaving Home, which is based in part on his relationship with his father, the late playwright David French presents a story of troubled relationships, unspoken desires, and consequences of epic proportions.  He also gives us some earthy bawdiness, some classic Newfoundland humour, and an unbridled joie de vivre. Among the questions that he asks are: What is a family?  What does it mean to be a father? A mother? A son? A daughter? A husband? A wife? What does it mean to work all your life to support your family, and suddenly see that family break apart?  What does it mean to be so angry that you strike the person you love most? What does it mean to feel trapped in a situation that is beyond your control? Delving into the world of the Mercer family has revealed many things to me and to the cast and crew.  It has been a thought-provoking, laughter-filled journey…”   The show has eight performances, Feb. 9 to 12 and Feb. 16 to 19. Tickets are available from the Orillia Opera House box office, 705-326-8011 and online at www.orilliaoperahose.ca.

A Night To Remember

October 22nd, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

Last night Mary and I, French family members, and many friends were in Ottawa at the opening of Salt-Water Moon and the "Writing Home: David French" exhibit at the National Arts Centre. It's a wonderful show, and the exhibit is so beautifully put together! Some tears were shed, and some laughs shared by those of us who knew David; it was an altogether magical night. I'd like to thank the NAC -- in particular Peter Hinton, Peter Herrndorf, Nancy Webster, Micheline Chevrier, and cast and crew of the show. I'd also like to thank the amazing Judi Pearl of the NAC, and her colleague Gerry Grace. And of course many thanks to Theatre Museum Canada, Michael Wallace in particular.

I said a few words on behalf of the family at the vernissage, and I think I'll just share part of that speech here:

I’ve been thinking a lot about David’s work this past year, and I’ve been realizing how much of it has to do with memory. That iconic monologue from the beginning of Of The Fields, Lately, for example -- the memory of a baseball game that epitomizes the son’s whole relationship with his father.

The way memories -- and the device of remembering – permeate That Summer, one of David’s last plays.  The memories of war that haunt Esau in Soldier’s Heart, and the collective memory of country that flows through the blood of the young lovers in Salt-Water Moon.

In the theatre, the most ephemeral of arts, the latest hit often seems to eclipse the work that came before. I know that David, particularly in the years before Soulpepper Theatre revived the Mercer plays, wondered about how – and if – his work would be remembered. This exhibit -- this recognition, this remembrance of the impact his work has had and continues to have -- would have meant a very great deal to him. As it means a great deal to us.

I’ll let David have the last word. Near the end of his play That Summer, the Narrator says, “Henry James thought the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon.’ For me, the most beautiful have always been ‘I remember.’”

Serbian Jitters In Ottawa

October 14th, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

Jitters at the Ottawa Serbian Theatre

On Sunday October 16, for one night only, Jitters is playing in Serbian translation at the Ottawa Serbian Theatre! Above is the beautifully hilarious poster. David's work continues to resonate in many languages, and around the world.

Jitters Tonight in Belleville

October 13th, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

Break a leg to the cast and crew of Jitters at the Belleville Theatre Guild!  Jitters opens tonight, kicking off the BTG's 60th anniversary season. Each of the shows in the season is an encore presentation. I quote from the BTG website: "For the 2011-2012 season, we have chosen five plays which we believe reflect the variety and excellence of the theatrical experiences from our history." The other classic plays in the season include Anne of Green Gables, Wait Until Dark, Little Women, and Play It Again, Sam. Jitters was first performed by BTG in 1982. I send them all the best, and hope to get to see the show. If you're in the Belleville area, go see it! Details available on their website at: http://www.bellevilletheatreguild.ca/info.htm#playlist

Culture Days & “Writing Home”

October 1st, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

It's Culture Days weekend -- and that means that the joint National Arts Centre and Theatre Museum Canada exhibit about David's career is live online! Here's the link: http://www.artsalive.ca/en/eth/playwright/david-french/ If you're not able to come to Ottawa to see the installed exhibit, this online version is the next best thing. Mary and I are very proud and happy to see David's work honoured so beautifully. Many thanks to Judi Pearl and Gerry Grace and colleagues at the NAC, and to Michael Wallace of TMC.

“Writing Home” at the NAC and Online!

September 24th, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

"Writing Home," the exhibit about David's career that's been curated by the National Arts Centre and Theatre Museum Canada, will be part of Culture Days (September 30 - October 2, 2011). This means that the exhibit will be open to the public --and will be available for online viewing -- on Friday! The exhibit will run until November 6. Here's a link to the NAC page about the exhibit. I'll post the link to the online show as soon as it goes up.

For The Love Of Theatre

September 10th, 2011 § 0 comments permalink

David used to remind people that the word "amateur" means "lover of". I'm sure that had something to do with the fact that right from the beginning of his playwriting career, amateur theatres embraced David's work.  And he loved community theatres right back. He always liked to receive posters and programs from their productions, and he went to see as many shows as he could.

Several years ago we went to Niagara Falls to see a showing of That Summer. It was a lovely production, with teen actors playing the main roles, which lent it a real innocence and freshness. Our drive down had been sunny -- but when we walked outside at intermission there were huge snowflakes swirling all around us. We scrapped our plans to drive back that night and stayed for the cast party instead; I've rarely had a better night at the theatre.

Right now, several amateur productions of David's plays are in the works. The next one up is the Burl-Oak Theatre Group's Salt-Water Moon, which opens on October 6th and runs until October 15th. Their beautiful blue poster image is posted above. You can click here to find out all the details about the production and to purchase tickets.

I've had a great time exchanging emails with Micki Clemens of the Burl-Oak group about the show. Actors Emilie Jefferies and Tom Haxell are starring. (And we are all wondering whether Tom, at 6' 4", might be the tallest Jacob on record!) Director Peter Kunder is a long-time fan of David's work. Here's a quote from Peter:

"In the mid-1980s David French wrote Salt-Water Moon, a poetic drama about the courtship of Mary Snow and Jacob Mercer set in Newfoundland in 1926.  Mary and Jacob first appeared in Leaving Home, French's first play.  It was a huge hit, saved Tarragon Theatre from closing, and went on to become one of the most-produced plays in Canadian theatre history. It was also the play that first made me understand that there truly is such a thing as "Canadian Theatre". I was so moved by Leaving Home that I taught it and Salt-Water Moon, to high school students for more than twenty-five years."

I wish BOTG a big "Break A Leg," and I hope to get to see the show.

Brooke’s Road Hockey Tournament

September 9th, 2011 § 1 comment permalink

If you look carefully at the hockey sticks behind actor Brooke Johnson's head, you'll see David's name inscribed on one of them. Brooke is raising money for Princess Margaret Hospital's cancer research facilities -- by playing in a dawn-to-dusk road hockey tournament on October 1!  Brooke's playing in honour of her partner Adrian, who's had a recent bout with cancer, and for her friends in the theatre community who have died of the disease in the past year. I'll quote a few lines from her essay about why she's doing it: "I am looking for Imagination, Belief, Anger, Love and Action, in the form of Donations for Cancer Research. I am playing in the honour of Carolyn, Jackie, Tracy, David, Paul, Maury, Graham, Pete and Gina, among others lost in the past year; and in memory of Pierre; and Sonya and Ted my grandparents, and George Truss; but mostly because Cancer dared to attack my best pal. Please support my fundraising in honour of your best pal." Brooke has already received over $5,000 in pledges, and would be happy to add your name to the list.  You can donate and find out more about the tournament by clicking here. Go, Brooke, go!

Summer Salt-Water Moons

September 5th, 2011 § 2 comments permalink

Poster for Salt-Water Moon in Bay Roberts

I spent most of the summer without an internet connection for my computer.  Very restful!  However, because of that, I missed mentioning two amazing Newfoundland productions of Salt-Water Moon: Rising Tide Theatre's outdoor production of Salt-Water Moon in Trinity Bay, and the SWM production in Bay Roberts, near David's home town of Coley's Point. Rising Tide Theatre has mounted an outdoor production of Salt-Water Moon in Trinity Bay for the past SIXTEEN summers!  I've never been lucky enough to see it, but people who have say it's a magical experience.  You can find out more about Rising Tide by clicking here. The Victoria LOL #3 Museum and Playhouse in Bay Roberts has a permanent exhibit about David's career, and it's been doing annual productions of his work for the past few years.  This year Salt-Water Moon was remounted due to popular demand.  Click here for information about the Museum and Playhouse. I hope both theatres had a wonderful time with the show.  If anyone has any Salt-Water Moon stories to share, feel free to send them in.  Playing the roles of Jacob and Mary in this show has been described as "a necessary rite of passage for young Canadian actors."