A Night To Remember

October 22nd, 2011 0 comments

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.’”

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