Yes we are that too: we are everything who feel it. Everything that has meaning has the same meaning as angels: these hoverers and whirrers: occupied with us. … When the band of the moment breaks there will come angelic recurrence.
— Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney, from “This Elastic Moment”
Congratulations to the singers and musicians who performed James Reaney and John Beckwith’s opera “Crazy to Kill” last weekend in Toronto, November 11-12, a Toronto Masque Theatre production. Here’s a rave review from some members of your enthusiastic audience:
We thought the production was fantastic! The opera singers can truly add “puppeteers” to their CV’s.
Loved the way everyone moved about the stage — when Agatha slowly drifted past us, it made us part of the story. A great set, with many levels (“rings”).
Loved the opening sewing scene when Agatha mimed the old treadle — and the sound effect, a great idea! Also loved her expressive face peering through the bed pillow — another great idea. The two musicians, Greg Oh (piano) and Ed Reifel (percussion), sounded like a full orchestra. We loved how they were in costume and part of the story!
You must all be exhausted, but also pleased that it was such a success. Jamie would have been delighted.
Based on Ann Cardwell’s 1941 mystery novel about a series of murders in a mental asylum, the opera has 22 roles and requires three singers, two actors, and 18 puppets. In this production, David Ferry directs mezzo-soprano Kimberly Barber as Agatha, soprano Shannon Mercer as Mme. Dupont, Doug MacNaughton as Detective Fry, and actors Ingrid Doucet and Brendan Wall.
Crazy to Kill
Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.
Pre-show chat with Artistic Director Larry Beckwith: 7:15 p.m.
Thank you all for coming to the lecture on Sunday afternoon to hear composer Peter Denny talk about his collaboration with James Reaney on Terrible Swift Sword, an experimental modern opera. Denny played recordings of some of the music, which requires singer-actors who can improvise melodies to go with Reaney’s words.
Marian Johnson, producer and stage manager of the play, also spoke about her memories of the 1991 week-long workshop production. Actors Dale Bell and Joanne Lubansky read scenes from the play between General Beauregard and Letitia Beauregard.
Our thanks also to the organizers of the lecture at the Stratford Public Library, Charles Mountford, Anne Marie Heckman, and Sam Coghlan.
Join us on Sunday, October 16 at 2:30 pm at TheStratford Public Library Auditorium in Stratford, Ontario, for a talk by composer Peter Denny at the second annual James Reaney Memorial Lecture. Denny, a long-time friend, will speak about his collaboration with James Reaney on Terrible Swift Sword, an experimental modern opera.
In his lecture, Peter Denny will talk about the creative elements behind the 1991 performance of Terrible Swift Sword. He will play recordings of some of the music, and read from the script and from the Biblical source.
The annual lecture is a project developed by The Stratford Public Library and Poetry Stratford, and features a talk by a person who is knowledgeable about the life and work of Stratford poet and playwright James Reaney and of writing in the Southwestern Ontario region, which is such a strong element in Reaney’s writing.
Four rural landscape paintings by James Reaney are part of the Pastorale exhibition at Museum London from July 16 to October 9, 2011. The paintings feature views of the Canadian farm and are chosen from the Museum’s permanent collection.
Drawing and painting were a “constant” in James Reaney’s life, and these landscape paintings grew out of a desire to “keep a record” of the world he knew (see Jean McKay’s article,“What on earth are you doing, Sir?” ArtScape, Issue 5, June 2006, 10). Here is a painting James Reaney made in Oxford County in 1978.
Here is the Eleventh Letter from Twelve Letters to a Small Town, a suite of poems James Reaney wrote for composer John Beckwith in 1962.
ELEVENTH LETTER — Shakespearean Gardens
The Tempest The violet lightning of a March thunderstorm glaring the patches of ice still stuck to the streets.
Two Gentlemen of Verona On Wellington St. an elegant colonel-looking gentleman with waxed white moustachioes that came to tight little points.
Merry Wives of Windsor The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Orange Lodge marched down the street in white dresses with orange bows on them.
Richard III At last all the children ran away from home and were brought up by an old spinster who lived down the street.
Henry VIII Mr. White’s second wife was the first Mrs. Brown and the first Mrs. White was the second Mrs. Brown.
Troilus & Cressida “Well, I haven’t been to that old Festival yet but since it began I’ve had ten different boyfriends.”
Titus Andronicus Young Mr. Wood to-day lost his right hand in an accident at the lumber yards.
Romeo & Juliet Romeo & Juliet Streets.
Timon of Athens Old Miss Shipman lived alone in a weatherbeaten old cottage and could occasionally be seen out on the front lawn cutting the grass with a small sickle.
Julius Caesar Antony wore a wrist watch in the Normal School production although he never looked at it during the oration.
Macbeth Principal Burdoch’s often expressed opinion was that a great many people would kill a great many other people if they knew for certain they could get away with it.
Hamlet A girl at the bakery took out a boat on the river, tied candlesticks to her wrists and drowned herself.
King Lear Mr. Upas was a silver haired cranky old individual who complained that the meat was too tough at the boarding house.
Othello At the edge of town there stood a lonely white frame building—a deserted Negro church.
The Merchant of Venice When my cousin worked for the Silversteins she had her own private roll of baloney kept aside in the refrigerator for her.
Henry V The local armouries are made of the usual red brick with the usual limestone machicolation.
Twelve Letters to a Small Town was first published in 1962 by the Ryerson Press. In the Afterword to the 2002 facsimile edition, James Reaney wrote that after it was published, “Many Stratford residents said they saw on paper for the first time their memories of the town and wrote to me to say so.”
Among the shows currently on at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario are The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, and Twelfth Night.
Here is a poem James Reaney wrote about the 1939 Royal Visit to Canada by Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The Royal Visit
When the King and Queen came to Stratford
Everyone felt at once
How heavy the Crown must be.
The Mayor shook hands with their Majesties
And everyone presentable was presented
And those who weren’t have resented
It, and will
To their dying day.
Everyone had almost a religious experience
When the King and Queen came to visit us
(I wonder what they felt!)
And hydrants flowed water in the gutters
People put quarters on the railroad tracks
So as to get squashed by the Royal train
And some people up the line at Shakespeare
Stayed in Shakespeare, just in case—
They did stop too,
While thousands in Stratford
Didn’t even see them
Because the Engineer didn’t slow down
Enough in time.
But although we didn’t see them in any way
(I didn’t even catch the glimpse
The teacher who was taller did
Of a gracious pink figure)
I’ll remember it to my dying day.
The Royal Visit is included in James Reaney’s first collection of poems The Red Heart (1949). The poem also appears in James Reaney’s 1967 play Colours in the Dark, where it follows an actual letter a child wrote to his father describing how the Royal train failed to slow down on that day (see Act I Scene 13).
Congratulations to actor David Ferry, who wrote to us earlier this month to share this good news:
I wanted to let you know that today I was honoured with the 2011 Barbara Hamilton Award for excellence in the performing arts. This is one of the five special Dora Mavor Moore awards presented annually at the announcement of the DORA nominations. I am thrilled to be selected by the jury for this honour and humbled to join the extraordinary group of past recipients, all of whom I know or knew and have worked with (as I did with Barbara Hamilton) – a true sign of aging I think.
I have been blessed in the past with eight DORA nominations and have won DORAs for Best Actor, Best Director, and Lighting Design. And doubly fortunate, I was nominated again for Best Actor for my performance in “Blasted” last fall. My wife Kyra Harper was nominated as best actress for her fine work in “Vincent River,” which makes me more happy than does my own fortune.
Congratulations, David, and best wishes for continuing success in the years to come!
David Ferry was one of the original cast members of James Reaney’s The Donnellys Part I, Sticks and Stones, which was first performed at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario on November 24, 1973. Here are fellow actors Jerry Franken and David Ferry together in the poster from the Tarragon production.
David Ferry has also recently edited a collection of plays by James Reaney for Playwrights Canada Press: Reaney Days in the West Room: Plays of James Reaney. David’s book includes seven of James Reaney’s plays: The Killdeer, Names and Nicknames, Listen to the Wind, The St.Nicholas Hotel, Gyroscope, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and Zamorna!
“The Box Social” was originally published in 1947 in The Undergrad at the University of Toronto, and then in the popular magazine The New Liberty. Here’s what Reaney had to say about why he wrote the story, in an autobiographical piece from 1992:
“Out of the deep past it somehow came to me, I think from my mother talking about the way men treated women in our neighbourhood. They never struck back; well, in my story one of them did.” (James Crerar Reaney, Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 15, page 304.)