February 24th, 2016 § permalink
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!
Mayko Nguyen, who plays Mary Snow
Mary at Factory
February 7th, 2015 § permalink
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.
June 2nd, 2014 § permalink
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:
April 16th, 2014 § permalink
This spring Globe Theatre produced Salt-Water Moon,
directed by Judy Wensel. I'd like to share some of the review that appeared in the Regina Leader-Post:
"Currently on the Main Stage at Regina's Globe Theatre, Salt-Water Moon is an engrossing and entertaining love story featuring talented actors in a beautiful and creative production. Written two decades ago by well-known Canadian playwright David French, Salt-Water Moon is one of five semi-autobiographical plays about the Mercer family of Newfoundland. The 90-minute show is essentially a conversation between two characters -- Jacob Mercer, played by Josh Ramsden, and Mary Snow, played by Lauren Holfeuer...The chemistry between Holfeuer and Ramsden is excellent and they do a great job of portraying the complex characters...Salt-Water Moon explores many interesting themes and will leave theatre-goers with much on which to reflect."
Congratulations to everyone involved in the show. I've heard from many sources that it was a wonderful production!
July 3rd, 2013 § permalink
Several Saskatchewan friends and family members are looking forward to seeing Salt-Water Moon at the Station Arts Theatre in Rosthern, which opens on July 5th and runs for most the month. I'm very sorry that Mary and I won't be able to see this production. Please go if you can -- it's going to be terrific! I've been corresponding with the director, Johnna Wright, and am pleased to be able to tell you a bit about the show.
Salt-Water Moon director Johnna Wright accepts the Jessie Award for Best Director, Vancouver, June 2013
By the way, just last week, Johnna won a "Jessie" award in Vancouver for her direction of The Merry Wives of Windsor
for Bard on the Beach. The show led the nominations for the prestigious awards with seven nods, including best director, best actor, best supporting actor, best costumes, best set, and significant artistic achievement. Congratulations to everyone involved!
Johnna has kindly given me permission to quote part of the email she sent me about some of the experiences she and cast and crew have had while rehearsing Salt-Water Moon:
"...It's been an added bonus on this show that we're getting to learn more Newfoundland history. Everywhere we look in our research, we find the same observations about the bravery of the First Newfoundland Regiment at the Somme and elsewhere, and about the hardship suffered 'back home' from the enormous losses in the war.
My own great-grandfather was in France during World War I, but I didn't think he had ever seen combat. Recently I was talking with my dad about
Salt-Water Moon and he set me straight: turns out Dad's grandfather fought at the Battle of the Somme, as well as the second battle of Ypres, and probably for the same reason as many Newfoundlanders did. Somehow he managed to survive two years in the trenches.
Our Jacob and Mary are a real-life married couple (Aaron Hursh and Caitlin Vancoughnett,) which has allowed for some shorthand in rehearsal. All those 'relationship dynamics' in the script really ring true and it's been a lot of fun to explore them with a couple who already know each others' foibles and ticklish spots. Of course they also know how to crack each other up, so we let them get that out of their system at the start of each day.
We've also discovered a number of Newfoundland ex-pats in our midst. Our rehearsal hall is at Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon, where the Technical Director, Derek Butt, wandered by the other day while Caitlin and Aaron were working on their dialect. The good news is that he knew immediately they were doing Newfoundland."
Johnna added that the cast and crew took a few minutes to observe Newfoundland's Memorial Day
during their tech rehearsals in Rosthern. She also told me something that made me laugh -- the stage manager's name is "Jacob" -- but since that was getting confusing, he has been renamed "Sebastian" for the rehearsal period!
I'm sending much love to everyone involved with this production, and wishes for broken legs all around on opening night.
May 3rd, 2013 § permalink
In the years before he died, David was working on a suspense novel. The story was set in the fall in small-town Ontario, in a fictional place not unlike Gananoque. One October weekend David and I drove to Gananoque so that he could soak in the atmosphere and do a bit of research. We had fun walking around town and exploring...Somewhere I have a funny photo of him taking notes on the end of a pier! Of course, while we were in town we saw a show at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, an excellent production of The Drawer Boy
by Michael Healey.
I'm happy to say that the Thousand Islands Playhouse will be presenting Salt-Water Moon
this fall, from October 11 to November 2nd. More information is on their website.
I look forward to hearing more about their production in the fall, and I hope to get to Gananoque to see it. Here's the poster image from the show:
February 26th, 2013 § permalink
Jacob, Jen, and Jason Paquette with WODL awards
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.
Mary and I with stage manager, director, and cast of Soldier's Heart
February 1st, 2013 § permalink
As it turns out, today is Jacob Paquette's birthday. Happy birthday to the young man named after Jacob Mercer, who will soon be playing the character in Soldier's Heart!
The full story is in yesterday's blog post, but here are links to an article in the Woodstock Sentinel-Review
and a YouTube video interview
that celebrate the Paquette-Mercer connection.
Cast and director of Soldier's Heart. (Back: Ian Culley, Jacob Paquette. Front: Jason Paquette, Jennifer Paquette.)
January 31st, 2013 § permalink
Yesterday I received a beautiful letter from Jennifer Paquette, a director whose production of
Soldier's Heart opens in Woodstock on February 8th. The Paquette family has a heartfelt connection to David's work, and the Theatre Woodstock production of
Soldier's Heart features real-life father and son playing Esau and Jacob...but that's just part of the story! Jennifer has kindly given me permission to quote her letter on this blog:
“Life Does Indeed Imitate Art”
A Love Letter to David French
This is our family’s story;
In the spring of 1991, I learned that I was being offered my directorial debut with a small community theatre in Woodstock, Ontario. The show was David French’s Salt-Water Moon.
I was a 29 year old single mom who had lived and breathed theatre since I was a girl, and Mr. French’s plays had figured prominently in my development as an actor, director and writer. I had toured Ontario schools with a repertory theatre in the early 80’s and Leaving Home
was in our line-up and was one of our most requested productions.
I was excited and nervous to finally have the opportunity to share my vision of one of a series of plays about the Mercer family, written by the man who was and remains Canada’s most important English speaking playwright.
I met my husband Jason when he auditioned for the role of Jacob Mercer. Obviously, he got the part, and, well, the rest as they say...
Our modest production of Salt-Water Moon
ran in February, 1992 and surprised us by going on to win the coveted Best Production award at the Theatre Ontario festival in Sault St Marie that spring.
Jason and I were married in 1994. In May of 1995, Jason and I learned that we were expecting a child. We had been raising my two little girls together and I think we both knew instinctively that we were having a boy. We didn’t even need to discuss what his name would be. The day before I gave birth, my husband telephoned Mr. French and told him our story. He explained how our own love had blossomed while telling the love story in Salt-Water Moon.
Then Mr. French and my husband spoke of the thrill of becoming a parent.
Jacob Anderson Paquette was born the following day, on February 1, 1996. Three days later, after returning from the hospital with our beautiful new bundle, a package arrived in the mail. We opened it to find a copy of Salt-Water Moon
with this inscription:
Jan 31/96 (this was the night I went into labour)
To Jason & Jennifer,
who are proof positive that life does indeed imitate art.
- David French
We treasure this generous gift. But the story doesn’t end there.
In February of 2013, our son will play his namesake, Jacob Mercer in a production of Soldier’s Heart.
His dad will play Jacob’s father, Esau. In July 2012, Jacob, Jason and I traveled to Newfoundland where Jacob stood at Coley’s Point, was officially “screeched in” and did a first read-thru of Soldiers Heart
with his dad on the steps of the old railway station in Bay Roberts. And so continues our connection with the Mercer family. It is as if these characters are our kin.
Jason and I have been fortunate to share our love of storytelling with our children. We believe that our stories are our most cherished inheritances. We are reminded of this every time we hear our now adult children recall to their friends their favourite story about a play called Salt-Water Moon,
and of how their parents met and fell in love.
First read-through of Soldier's Heart, Jacob and Jason Paquette on the steps of the train station in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, where the play is set.
October 2nd, 2012 § permalink