James Reaney’s The Killdeer on January 27th in Stratford

Martha Henry, long-time performer and associate of the Stratford Festival, has written to James Stewart Reaney with news of this special event:

I thought you might like to know that the Birmingham Conservatory, which is the training program at the Stratford Festival that I’m in charge of at the moment, is doing a reading on Sunday night, January 27th, of The Killdeer. We do these readings throughout the five months the Conservatory is in situ, from mid-September to mid-February every year. I give the actors the category (Jacobean, German, Restoration, American, etc. etc.) and they do everything else. They read plays of the period, they choose the play they want to do, they cast, rehearse and produce it themselves and then read it in the Lobby of the Festival Theatre at 7:30 in the evening.

Your Dad’s play comes from the (no kidding!) “Canadian Classic” category, which – although the other categories change from year to year – we always end with. I’m thrilled that they’ve picked The Killdeer and Ann Stuart, the Conservatory Coordinator, suggested you might like to know – or even might like to come! We would be thrilled if you could, needless to say. Even if this isn’t convenient, I wanted you to know it was happening. They are as excited as if they’d discovered the play themselves……which, in a fashion, they have!

These readings are open to the public and we have a lot of loyal patrons who are grateful for some winter activity – especially those who have retired to Stratford because of the Festival – and consistently come to see what their young favourites are doing.

Please join us if you can. If that’s not possible, we will think of you on the evening of the 27th.

Martha Henry appeared in the first production of James Reaney’s Names and Nicknames in 1963 at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also the first production of Colours in the Dark at the Stratford Festival in July 1967. Both plays were directed by John Hirsch (1930-1989).

The Killdeer was first performed on January 13, 1960, by the University College Alumnae Society at the Coach House Theatre in Toronto.  The Alumnae Theatre will present a new production of The Killdeer, April 12-27, 2013 in Toronto.

January 27, 2013: Update from Susan Wallace: “We’ve just come back from Stratford where we saw the most amazing rehearsed reading of Jamie’s The Killdeer in the lobby of the Festival Theatre.

Ruby Joy, niece of our friend Robin McGrath, was Madam Fay, and she was outstanding. She also co-directed the production. No sets, they just sat on chairs and used lecterns when they stood to read their parts, but what a story they told. It was more alive than any other production I’ve ever seen of the play, and what great jokes, told with perfect timing!

We talked at length to Ruby and the other actors, who are part of the Birmingham Conservatory. Martha Henry was there as the boss lady and she got us arranged into a photo. She was full of praise for her trainees and for Jamie and his play.”

Thank you again, Martha Henry and the performers of the Birmingham Conservatory!
All the best for your work in the future.

For more about this performance of The Killdeer, see JBNBlog.