A Shining Moon at ESA

May 16th, 2019 § 0 comments permalink

Mary goes to the Etobicoke School of the Arts, where one of the Grade 12 drama one-act plays this year is Salt-Water Moon. We saw the show this afternoon, and it is so beautiful! I'm very happy we were able to attend.

Director Katie Hillyard-Beale said in her pre-show speech that she'd seen Ravi Jain's production of the play at Mirvish, and had, from that moment onward, been determined to direct it for her final school project. She called Emma D'Agrosa and Max Grosskopf her "dream cast," and after seeing the show, I know why.

The production is thoughtful, moving, and full of life. The two well-matched performers fully inhabited Mary Snow and Jacob Mercer, whose shared past and economic circumstances are standing in the way of their love for one another. The direction hit all the right notes: as the two spar, flirt, and finally open their hearts to one another, we see the pain, love, (and sense of humour) that they share.

Congratulations to Katie, Emma, Max, and crew, as well as the Grade 12 Drama teachers!

Playwrights Guild of Canada

July 12th, 2016 § 0 comments permalink

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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.

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Have Slideshow, Will Travel

June 10th, 2016 § 0 comments permalink

A_Black_and_White_Cartoon_Teacher_with_a_Pointer_Giving_a_Lecture_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_100723-011275-565053 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!  

Archives at Memorial University

April 16th, 2014 § 0 comments permalink

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For many years, all of David's papers were in housed in a small filing cabinet and a mountain of cardboard boxes in our apartment's storage room. In 2001, I bought a huge lateral filing cabinet and sorted through the papers, filing them all. It was fun, and helped me to learn more about David's career. I was surprised to find newspaper articles about Leaving Home having been banned at two schools in the 1970s, for example. And I loved seeing all the original programs and production shots. David was a bit of a packrat, so I turned up old shopping lists and decades worth of Christmas cards, too!

David and I once had a conversation about archives. I mentioned that a lot of playwrights were sending their papers to the University of Guelph, where the Tarragon Theatre's archives are housed. David said that he knew that, but that many years earlier, Memorial University had asked him for his papers, and he felt that was where they should ultimately be sent.

About a year after David died, I started to think about the papers. They were still in our storage room, and one summer we had had a leak that narrowly missed the big filing cabinet. I knew that the papers would be safer at a university, and that it would be good to have them in a place where they could be made available for researchers. One day I called Memorial University. I wasn't sure who to contact, so I dialed the number for the Library, figuring that I'd have to talk to several people and perhaps be told to write a letter or email about the papers...Instead, as soon as I explained who I was and why I was calling, the voice on the other end of the phone in St. John's exclaimed, "David French! Of course! We'd love to have his papers in the archives here." So immediately, I knew that Memorial had indeed been the right choice.

It took me a long time to actually pack up the papers. Going through them again was in some ways quite difficult. I laughed, I cried...But eventually, I had seven large IKEA tubs of notebooks, drafts, letters, photos, programs, and other papers ready for Purolator to take to Newfoundland.

Colleen Quigley and her colleagues at Memorial have been terrific. I know the papers are in very good hands.

CODE Conference

October 20th, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

Mary and I are at the CODE conference -- the annual gathering of the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators. We're talking to a lot of teachers about David's work and learning more about drama education in the province. Plus we had a great time on the epic waterslide at the Nottawasaga Inn here in Alliston!

Photos From Writing Home

October 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

Family friend and photographer extraordinaire Diana Renelli dropped by the Writing Home exhibit at the Tarragon on Sunday and took some photos. She's kindly given me permission to post some here. Sunday was the last day for the exhibit in Tarragon's upstairs rehearsal hall. Many family members came by to see the displays, and it was a great day.

See Writing Home at the Tarragon This Week!

September 21st, 2012 § 1 comment permalink

The Writing Home exhibit about David's career closes on September 30, so if you haven't seen it yet, now is a good time to plan your visit. Curated by Theatre Museum Canada and the National Arts Centre, the exhibit looks right at home in the upstairs rehearsal hall at the Tarragon. Here's a link to the Tarragon website, which tells you times and days when the exhibit is open for viewing: http://www.tarragontheatre.com

Writing Home Comes Home To The Tarragon

September 11th, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

The Tarragon, where most of David's plays were originally produced, is hosting the marvellous National Arts Centre/Theatre Museum Canada display about his career, Writing Home. The exhibit will be open to the public for free from today until September 30, on each day that the Tarragon has a show. Check the Tarragon website for details about dates and times: http://www.tarragontheatre.com/ If you're in the Toronto area, please go see the exhibit. It's a great tribute to David and his work.

   

Soaring Seagull

March 23rd, 2012 § 1 comment permalink

Last week, Mary and I were privileged to be invited to Windsor to see the University Players perform David's adaptation of The Seagull. David was the Writer-in-Residence in the English Department at the University of Windsor in 2008-2009, and he loved it there. Right from the beginning, the Windsor-ites made him feel at home, and he was greatly impressed by the number of talented writers and actors that he met during his time in the city. I was delighted to be invited to see The Seagull, but to be honest, I expected to see a high-quality, but typical, student production. As soon as the lights went down and the actors walked into the birch forest, I knew I'd been mistaken about that. I was completely blown away by the University Players show! It was an absolutely splendid production in every way. The ensemble of young people had taken Chekhov's characters deep into their bones, and their performances shimmered. It was an astonishing night in the theatre, a superb interpretation of the work. The show was directed by J. Ed Araiza, a director, writer, and performer who is associated with New York City's SITI Company. It starred twenty-five accomplished actors and four gifted musicians who wove a spell over the audience, and moved us to laughter and to tears. Lionel Walsh, the head of the Drama Department, tells me that U Windsor has produced six David French plays over the years. At the party afterward, I talked to so many people who had been influenced by David's work, and who had enjoyed getting to know him. The show itself was dedicated "to the memory of our dear friend David French." I'd like to thank everyone involved in the show for their beautiful work, and to thank all of David's Windsor friends for everything they did for him. A particular thank you to Lionel for inviting Mary and me, and for taking such good care of us. The city holds a special place in our hearts, and the memory of The Seagull will remain with us always.  

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.