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!
Some cast members of the Scarborough Players’ production of 1949.
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, and that sometimes even travels from Toronto to the east coast.
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.
March is really turning out to be a great month to see a play by David French in the GTA. Salt-Water Moon at Factory Theatre is running and has received stellar reviews; Jitters will soon be running at Soulpepper, and 1949 is about to open in Scarborough.
The Scarborough Players will be presenting 1949, David’s large-cast Mercer play that takes place on the eve of Newfoundland’s referendum about whether or not to become Canada’s tenth province. You can find more details about performance dates and tickets on their website: Scarborough Players
The next few weeks will be very exciting for Mary and me and the whole French family. Factory Theatre’s production of Salt-Water Moon is in previews right now, and it opens on Friday. Next week, Jitters will begin previewing at Soulpepper. We’re delighted to have two of David’s plays running at the same time at two of the best theatres in the city.
First up, Salt-Water Moon at Factory! Ravi Jain, the director, says the team has been having a wonderful time in rehearsals. Toronto audiences will remember Ravi from A Brimful of Asha, his funny, warm, and candid family play — in which Ravi appeared opposite his mother. Ravi is also the artistic director of the Why Not Theatre company.
The two actors who star in Salt-Water Moon are Kawa Ada, recently seen in Soulpepper’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and Mayko Nguyen, perhaps best known for her role as Mayko Tran on the television series ReGenesis.
Kawa Ada, who plays Jacob Mercer
Here are photos of the two stars of the show, along with a snapshot I took of Mary, posing by the Factory billboard for the play. Can’t wait to see it!
Barbara Tarbuck, director of a production of Leaving Home by the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, sent me this wonderful promo video. The show opened last night — sure wish I had been there to see it! Enjoy.
Recently I had some correspondence with Harry Houston, the Past President of Sault Theatre Workshop. This spring their group put on a special performance of David’s play about World War I, Soldier’s Heart. I asked Harry if he could tell me a little about it, and he sent me this gorgeous poster, along with some details about the show.
Here’s what Harry says about the special preview performance the group held:
“Sault Theatre Workshop has a program where we donate a preview performance of a production to a local charity or not-for-profit group to be used as a fundraiser. We supply the venue (our Studio Theatre on Pittsburgh Avenue,) the performance, pay for the royalties and give the group 100 tickets to sell. The group sells the tickets and keeps the money. We also offer the group the opportunity to set up displays, raffle a door prize or hold silent auctions etc. on the evening of their preview. We retain the right to run the concession and “reserve” seat the Sault Star reviewer (if needed). All we ask in return is that the ticket prices are not sold for lower than our normal prices, and that we get a written report after the event is over, detailing the funds raised for the organization.
Why do we do this? Aside from helping and supporting our community, we find that this results in people coming out to our shows for the first time and they often end up becoming new audience members. We always have what we call “dress rehearsal” anyway and an audience can help the actors prepare for opening night. We like whenever possible to match the production’s theme or story line with the groups goals and it gives us a warm feeling to support some worthy causes.
Our group of choice for Soldier’s Heart was our local Legion (Branch 25) in Sault Ste Marie. Their attendance and word of mouth after the show increased our audiences. One gentleman told us he had to come attend as his grandfather was part of that Newfoundland regiment. It was moving at the close of each performance as the audience joined in with the singing of ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning.'” I wish I could have seen the show. Here’s a photo of the cast: