Thousand Islands Playhouse

May 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments 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:    

Our Trip To Woodstock

February 26th, 2013 § 1 comment 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

Jacob’s Namesake

February 1st, 2013 § 0 comments 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.)

The Paquettes and The Mercers: A Love Story

January 31st, 2013 § 0 comments 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.

With gratitude,
Jennifer Paquette

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.

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.

That Summer in Selby

September 24th, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

Last weekend a new production of That Summer opened at Lennox Community Theatre in Selby. Performances take place at the beautiful old Village Theatre in Selby, which is about 4 km. north of Napanee. Mae Wood directed the production, which will play again this coming weekend, and the following weekend. More information about the company and tickets can be found on their website at: http://www.lennoxtheatre.ca/

The poster for Lennox Community Theatre's production of That Summer

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.

   

Salt-Water Moon on Granville Island

May 11th, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

A production of Salt-Water Moon on Granville Island next month stars two amazing young actors: 18-year old Jesse DeCoste, and 16-year old Sofia Newman. The two got to know one another during a high school production of Grease. Sofia and Jesse are both serious about pursuing careers in the theatre, and Jesse is off to LAMDA in London in the fall. The fact that the actors are so close to the ages of the characters in the play will add an authenticity to the show...and both have proven that they have the acting chops! Sofia has a family connection to David's work -- her mother, Lisa Bunting, played April in Bill Glassco's wonderful production of 1949 at CentreStage (now Canadian Stage.) Sofia's father, Richard Newman, directs the show. He once played Jacob in Of The Fields, Lately -- and he saw several premiere productions of David's plays while in Toronto. Designers for the show include Amy McDougall (costumes) and Sean Malmas (set and lighting), both of whom have worked with the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. Further information about the show can be found here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/241512 Break legs to all involved! If you're in the area, be sure to pick up tickets. The show runs from June 19 through 29th at the Carousel Studio Theatre.

That Summer at Theatre Northwest

May 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments permalink

I'm happy to report that Theatre Northwest in Prince George, B.C. will be producing That Summer in September and October. Theatre Northwest is one of Canada’s smaller regional theatres, but the organization has gained a reputation for its exceptional production values, its penchant for casting from across the country, and the local enthusiasm for Canadian work. Some of the theatre's most popular productions include Corker by Wendy Lill, A Guide to Mourning by Eugene Stickland, Amigo’s Blue Guitar by Joan MacLeod, The Invisibility of Eileen by Kit Brennan, Thy Neighbour’s Wife by Tara Beagan and the works of Norm Foster, Guy Vanderhaeghe and Lance Woolaver. And 1949! Here's a link to the Theatre Northwest website: http://theatrenorthwest.com/current-plays/ I'll keep you posted as I find out more details.