Preview Night

January 27th, 2012 1 comment

The wonderful Bill Kennedy posted this tribute to David on Facebook last year under the title “A Death In The Family.” I am grateful to be able to post it here as well.

Scowling at the now empty stage, the man sat two thirds of the way back, as the audience, laughing and chatting, left for the lobby.  It was the end of Act I of the preview of the comedy Jitters at the Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto.  I watched the man, concentrating on the stage as though the actors were still there.  In his mind they were.  This was the man who had woven together his own experience as actor and playwright and  had run this play through his mind a thousand times as he revised and revised, boiling it down to its essence.  This was David French.


I walked over to the row he was seated in and sat down a respectful distance away, not wanting to disturb his train of thought.  I had met David through an introduction to dramatic writing course given by his partner, Glenda MacFarlane and I had emailed them a couple of times.  After a while he acknowledged my presence.  “There’s a lot of work to do yet,” was all he said.  This despite all of the laughter that had just come from the full house.


David was like that:  intense, passionate, uncompromising, as much a rock as the place where he had been born.  When he visited our class, we all talked about our current projects.  When I described mine, he said, “A novel maybe, not a play.”  He was right.  That comment made me start over from scratch, because after listening to him, all I wanted to do was write a play.  David’s approach was classical theatre:  a single protagonist with an all-consuming desire, facing overwhelming conflict and equipped with only their intelligence and feelings.  Salt-Water Moon features two actors on one set in one evening.  “The challenge,” he explained, “was that this story took place before my previous play, so the audience already knew the ending.”  Yet, even knowing not just the ending, but also the whole play, I was still riveted to my seat.  I took my family to see it at Soulpepper.  With two teenagers, it can be difficult to find something that engages all of us.  This play was an exception.  The conversation all the way home centered around the play and the two characters.


You can picture yourself in a French play.  Whether you see yourself as the parent or the child, the young lover or the frustrated patriarch, he spoke to all of us.  Each character is presented with understanding and compassion, true to all of the frailties and strengths of the human condition.  You can’t leave one of David’s plays untouched by the experience.


We will miss him.

§ One Response to Preview Night

  • wanda says:

    Thank you Bill

    What a wonderfull tribut to my uncle. He is sadly missed. I took my 20 yr old and his friend to see the same show and they loved it and wanted to see more.As i looked to the lady beside me i could see her smiles and tears. This was moving as i saw alot of people doing the same thing. I even had a tear and i have see this play so many times.

    thank you
    Wanda French

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