James Reaney’s marionette play Apple Butter

Written for children attending the Western Fair in London, Ontario, the first performances of James Reaney’s marionette play Apple Butter took place in a tent on the fairgrounds in September 1965.

Marionettes Hester Pinch, Solomon Spoilod, and Apple Butter

In this final scene from the play, orphan hero Apple Butter calls on RAWBONE (a bone fairy) to vanquish his adult oppressors.

APPLE BUTTER: These are words to think upon, Miss Pinch. Rawbone!

A huge whalebone brush enters and chases them about. MOO COW enters and bears VICTOR NIPCHOPPER off on her horns.

“Moo Cow” courtesy Museum of Canadian History, Gatineau, PQ.

MOO COW: The very idea of you pretending to be me, Victor Nipchopper. I never caught my tail in a fence in my life. For I always jump over them neat and clean just the way I’m going to jump with you – over the moon.

MOO COW and VICTOR NIPCHOPPER disappear up. SOLOMON SPOILROD and MISS PINCH kneel for mercy in front of APPLE BUTTER.

MISS PINCH:   Forgive us, Apple Butter. We’ll never try to spank you, or any other orphan child again.

APPLE BUTTER: What about you, Solomon Spoilrod? Are you going to be so unmerciful to your scholars ever again?

SOLOMON SPOILROD: No. Just don’t let that Giant Hairbrush at me again.

APPLE BUTTER: Now you know what it feels like to get birched and strapped, don’t you?

SOLOMON SPOILROD: Yes.

APPLE BUTTER: It bears thinking upon, doesn’t it? Now – another thing. Are you going to marry Miss Pinch here, like you keep promising to do every time you get tiddly on her chokecherry wine and mysteriously win all the games of King Pedro?

SOLOMON SPOILROD: (pausing) No!

APPLE BUTTER: Wuzzel!

Either TREE WUZZEL appears or a tree falls down on SOLOMON SPOILROD.

SOLOMON SPOILROD: Yes! If I say yes, will he stop frightening me?

MISS PINCH:   Oh, Solomon, I never knew you really cared that much. Apple Butter, you aren’t going to leave us now. Why, we’ll adopt you as our first child and we’ll will the farm to you, come what may. I don’t know how I could be so cruel to such a wise, innocent child.

APPLE BUTTER: Thank you very much, Miss Pinch. But now that the apples are getting ripe, I think I’d better walk around and look at all the orchards to help the people that own them make their apple butter and their apple cider.

MISS PINCH:   Where will you sleep? Back at the orphanage?

APPLE BUTTER: No. I only stayed there for a while to help out. I like sleeping out best – under a wild apple tree. Goodbye, folks, and maybe I’ll come to see you in the spring when the apple blossoms are out and bring you a blossom baby.

MISS PINCH AND SOLOMON SPOILROD: Goodbye, Apple Butter. We can just feel how you’ve changed us.

SOLOMON SPOILROD: I feel sweeter inside. And more loving.

MISS PINCH:   I don’t feel like Miss Pinch anymore. I feel like Mrs. Spoilrod.

TREE WUZZEL and RAWBONE appear.

APPLE BUTTER: How far will you walk with me, Tree Wuzzel and Rawbone?

TREE WUZZEL AND RAWBONE: As far as you’re going, Apple Butter.

APPLE BUTTER: As far as I’m going…. That bears thinking on.

Apple Butter at the Western Fair in London, Ontario, September 1965.

 

August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: James Reaney holds Apple Butter with his children James, John, and Susan.

For more about Apple Butter and especially Jay Peterson’s role in commissioning the play and helping create the marionettes, see Marionette Plays and also Apple Butter off to the Western Fair Summer 1965.

August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: James Reaney (right) holding Apple Butter with his daughter Susan (left).

July 11-25: The Boy with an R in His Hand

July 5, 2018: The Boy with an R in His Hand dress rehearsal at Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Left to right: Chris McAuley, Shaun Hessey, and Patricia Tiemi. Photo by James Stewart Reaney.

Fanshawe Pioneer Village, July 11-25: The AlvegoRoot Theatre Company will present two new plays this summer — Welcome to Bon Echo, by Aimee Adler, about pioneer suffragist Flora MacDonald Denison, and a stage version of James Reaney’s historical children’s novel The Boy with an R in His Hand.

Shaun Hessey as Alec in The Boy with an R in His Hand. Photo by Chris Montanini courtesy The Londoner.

Adam Corrigan Horowitz, AlvegoRoot’s Artistic Director, has adapted Reaney’s story to tell the tale of an orphaned brother and sister, Alec and Elizabeth, who arrive in the town of York in Upper Canada in 1826.

From The Boy with an R in His Hand, Alec and Joel arrive in York. (Illustration by Leo Rampen, page 13)
Alec working in Mackenzie’s print shop (Illustration by Leo Rampen, page 56)

Though Alec and Elizabeth both seek peace and security in their new home, they find themselves on opposite sides of the Family Compact versus Reform debate. Alec falls afoul of his Tory-minded Uncle John when he becomes a printer’s apprentice in Reform politician William Lyon Mackenzie‘s print shop, setting the scene for the famous “Types Riot” by Mackenzie’s political foes.

How To Set Type (page 59)
The Boy with an R in His Hand (Illustration by Leo Rampen, page 88)

This adaptation makes skillful use of Alec’s totem protectors  — a bear, a crow, and a monkey — who help reunite the brother and sister and set right injustice from the past.

The Boy with an R in His Hand’s totem protectors — Tully, The Bear, and Croaker (Illustrations by Leo Rampen)

Where: Fanshawe Pioneer Village, 2609 Fanshawe Park Road East, 519-457-1296.

Tickets: See “Register For This Event” on the “Summer Theatre Presents” page.

For more about AlvegoRoot’s summer season, see Janis Wallace’s interview with Adam Corrigan Horowitz in The Londoner. Dan Brown reviews the play in The London Free Press.

James Reaney’s The Boy with an R in His Hand, first published in 1965, is available from The Porcupine’s Quill. The new edition contains the original illustrations by Leo Rampen.

The Boy with an R in His Hand: the cover shows The Print Shop at Mackenzie House, 82 Bond Street, Toronto.

 

Colours in the Dark premiere July 25, 1967

July 25, 1967 — Fifty years ago today, James Reaney’s play Colours in the Dark had its first performance at the Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, part of the Stratford Festival‘s 15th season. Described in the press as a “play box of colours and fantasies”, Colours in the Dark won favourable reviews and enjoyed a standing ovation on its opening night.

Directed by John Hirsch, the actors were Sandy Webster, Barbara Bryne, Douglas Rain, Martha Henry, Heath Lamberts, and Mary Hitch along with 12 Stratford children and four singers. Eoin Sprott designed the projected images used to create the set, and Alan Laing wrote and performed the music.

Douglas Rain as the Father, Martha Henry as the Mother and Heath Lamberts as the Son in the 1967 production of Colours in the Dark. Photography by Peter Smith (Courtesy Stratford Festival Archives. Reproduced with permission.)
Barbara Bryne, Douglas Rain and Sandy Webster in Colours in the Dark, 1967
Photography by Peter Smith & Company
(Courtesy Stratford Festival Archives. Reproduced with permission.)

Carol Johnson of the Stratford Beacon Herald interviewed Elizabeth Cooke, James Reaney’s mother, and Wilma McCaig, his sister, about the play and about the notion that the play is like a “play box” from his past and the past of the Stratford District:

“There’s a big chest upstairs that comes from Ireland. It has his first manuscripts and his first puppets in it. I don’t know if that’s what he calls his play box.

He didn’t have measles as a child. The experience in the play was like my experience with measles, except I didn’t see colours in the dark. I kept books under my pillow… I read when I wasn’t supposed to.

He used to listen to the radio all the time. Little Orphan Annie, that’s in the play, was one of his favourite programs… the Singing Lady, that was another one. And one early space program that used to make the windows shake.

[…] Flying kites, parades, puppets, glass Easter eggs, drawings, bicycles, Sunday School pictures — all of the things his mother and sister spoke of in James Reaney’s past, they placed in his work today, most in Colours in the Dark.

Jamie wasn’t a religious boy. He’d sit in church in one of the back pews. Someone told me once, there was Jamie reading while the minister was preaching.

He’s always painted. You’d call him for dinner and he’d be upstairs painting water colour portraits on the whitewash.

He’s made puppets since high school.  In Red Riding Hood he was the wolf, a plastic bag, who eats the grandmother, who’s a teapot.

James Reaney writes about the things he knows from his childhood, the way he knows them as a man.”

[Source: Excerpted from Carol Johnson’s article “James Reaney’s ‘play-box’ mother talks about his childhood”, Stratford Beacon Herald, July 28, 1967, page 7.]

 

Note from Susan Reaney: Elizabeth Cooke (née Crerar) did indeed keep books under her pillow; see “Her reviews were pithy” by James Stewart Reaney in the London Free Press.

Allan Stratton tells us that James Reaney’s marionette plays Apple Butter and an adaptation of Red Riding Hood were performed July 3-15, 1967 at the Stratford Arena before Colours in the Dark opened, so this might be where Elizabeth Cooke had the chance to see them.

The Alphabet Players with the marionettes from Apple Butter, Stratford, Ontario, July 1967. James Reaney (centre, seated) is holding some of the Red Riding Hood marionettes. Allan Stratton (far right) is holding Apple Butter, and James Stewart Reaney (second in on the left) is holding Solomon Spoilrod.

 

For more about Colours in the Dark, see “The Music Lesson from Colours in the Dark”, “Colours in the Dark and Mr. Winemeyer”, and the March 2017 production by the King’s Theatrical Society.

For more about James Reaney’s childhood influences, see “James Reaney: Reflections on Food, Shelter, and ‘When the Great Were Small'”.

Grateful thanks to the Stratford Festival Archives for permission to reproduce the photos from the 1967 production of Colours in the Dark, and also to the Canadian Theatre Collection at the University of Guelph Archives for reviews and articles about the play.

Colours in the Dark by James Reaney is available from Talonbooks.

 

 

 

The Music Lesson from Colours in the Dark

March 2017 in Halifax: King’s Theatrical Society’s production of James Reaney’s Colours in the Dark. (Photo by Erica Guy)

The Music Lesson scene in James Reaney’s 1967 play Colours in the Dark (Act II Scene 5) borrows from an earlier poetic cycle about Stratford, Ontario: Twelve Letters to a Small Town (1962).

Pages 6 and 7 from Twelve Letters To A Small Town (1962). Drawings by James Reaney.

CBC Radio commissioned Twelve Letters to a Small Town and John Beckwith composed music to accompany the poems. In the Eighth Letter (subtitled “The Music Lesson”), James Reaney pays tribute to his Stratford piano teacher Cora B. Ahrens.

The Eighth Letter “…  depicts a piano lesson in which the student, after playing a few exercises and a set piece called ‘The Storm,’ is asked to display his progress on another piece called ‘A Year in the Town,’ by playing each of the four sections (representing the four seasons) first one hand at a time and then with both hands together. Both ‘The Storm’ and ‘A Year in the Town have appropriate spoken texts to which the music corresponds.” [Source: John Beckwith on “James Reaney and Music” November 5, 2016]

From Colours in the Dark (II v) The Music Lesson: PUPIL: Miss Miller. Tell me the truth. Are you really Mr. Winemeyer in disguise? Are men and women the same? (Photo by Erica Guy, King’s Theatrical Society)

 

5. THE MUSIC LESSON

(The GRANDMOTHER is the music teacher; the FATHER is her pupil.)

TEACHER: That will do for your scales. Now play me your piece. Play me “The Storm.” What shall I set the metronome at?

PUPIL: Set it at summer and pink and white and yellow bricks sunlight with blue sky and white feather dumpling clouds.

The cast enters and assists orally.

THE STORM

A cloud and a cloud and a cloud
Came into the blue afternoon room
A cloud and a cloud and a cloud
And a cloud and a cloud
a cloud
Mac Leod
A Cloud
And a cloud and a cloud
Down down down came the cloudy
With a windowpane shudder
And mirrors for your feet
People running into stores
Darkness in the library
Umbrellas blossom
Church is nearer through the rain.
A cloud and a cloud and a cloudy
Came out of the yellow garage
Joseph MacLeod in a many-coloured vest
Danced to the music dying in the west.

This whole piece should have the feeling of yellow and “Chansons sans Paroles” by Mendelssohn.

TEACHER: Why are you looking so sad?
PUPIL: I’ve lost something. I’ve lost a piece of the star Mr. Winemeyer gave me. I was trying to kick it all the way into town and it disappeared in the dirt.
TEACHER: Here – as a reward for playing “The Storm” so well.
She hands him the star.
PUPIL: But Miss Miller. How did you get hold of this? It’s my piece of the star… that I lost while kicking it into town.
She sits down at the piano and begins to play.
TEACHER: Now here’s the next piece of music I’d like you to learn.
She plays him the same piece of music the Hermit played, “On Wings of Song.”
PUPIL: Miss Miller. Tell me the truth. Are you really Mr. Winemeyer in disguise? Are men and women the same?
She smiles and continues playing. The light fades. The Wind and the rain doll pass with their branch shadows. The GRANDMOTHER exits. The GRANDFATHER, still playing the Hermit, crawls onstage. The BOYS run over to him.

((( ♦ ))) For more about “The Music Lesson” in the “Eighth Letter” section of Twelve Letters to a Small Town, see composer John Beckwith’s talk on “James Reaney and Music” at Words Fest 2016. 

((( ))) For more about the play, see Colours in the Dark and Mr. Winemeyer” and the March 2017 production by Edie Reaney Chunn and the King’s Theatrical Society.

John Beckwith at WordsFest in London, Ontario, November 5, 2016

Apple Butter at the Kingston Fringe

Congratulations to Helen Monroe and Jewel Weed Theatre Company for their successful adaptation of James Reaney’s children’s play Apple Butter at the Fringe Theatre Festival in Kingston, Ontario this week.

Originally conceived as a marionette play, this adaptation uses “actors, puppets, masks and a touch of magic” to bring the story of orphan Apple Butter and his sojourn at Hester Pinch’s farm to life.

Jennifer Brook designed the puppets and masks, and Peter Jarvis composed original songs for the play. The performers are  Nicola Atkinson, Adrian Beattie, Kayla Farris, Connor Marois, and Reanne Spitzer.

Part of this year’s Storefront Fringe Festival, the show runs from June 23 to July 1. Order tickets here.

Director Helen Monroe has shared these photos of designs from the play:

James Reaney’s play Applebutter at the Storefront Fringe in Kingston, Ontario, June 23- July 1, 2017.
“Tree Wuzzel” design by Jennifer Brook.

 

Design for “Moo Cow” mask by Jennifer Brook.

 

“Rawbone” puppet design by Jennifer Brook.

James Reaney’s Colours in the Dark in Halifax March 29 to April 1

March 29, 2017 — Congratulations to the King’s Theatrical Society of King’s University College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for their wonderful production of James Reaney’s 1967 play Colours in the Dark.

Thank you cast members Alex McVittie, Caleb Sher, Ella MacDonald, Frances Grace Fyfe, Jack Lewis, Jacob Hermant, Jeremy Earley, Julia Hancock-Song, Julia Schultz, Maxim Makarov, and Robert Sapp for your spirited performances.

Colours in the Dark was directed by James Reaney’s granddaughter, Edie Reaney Chunn, who also wrote original music for the play: “This process has been wonderful, in part because of hearing my own voice in my grandfather’s writing, but also because of the new things I have learned to do, and learned that I love doing.”

Colours in the Dark by James Reaney

Here are pictures from the play taken by Producer Erica Guy:


Colours in the Dark cast members: Maxim Makarov, Jacob Hermant, Jeremy Earley, Caleb Sher, Frances Grace Fyfe, Julia Schultz, Jack Lewis, Alex McVittie, Julia Hancock-Song, Robert Sapp, and Ella MacDonald. Photo by Erica Guy.
Julia Hancock-Song, Julia Schultz, Caleb Sher, Frances Grace Fyfe, and Jeremy Earley: Act I Scene 1, A Family Game and a Birthday Party
Photo by Erica Guy
From Act I Scene 1: KIDS: Read our palms. Guess who we are.
Act I Scene 10 with Jacob Hermant and Frances Grace Fyfe: SON: Oh, Sally, whatever is it now?
Act II Scene 2, A Visit to a Sculptor Hermit: Frances Grace Fyfe, Maxim Makarov, and Julia Hancock-Song
Mr. Winemeyer’s cement sculptures
Act II Scene 5, The Music Lesson with Robert Sapp and Alex McVittie: TEACHER: What shall I set the metronome at? PUPIL: Set it at summer and pink and white and yellow bricks sunlight with blue sky and white feather dumpling clouds.
Act II Scene 8, From Stratford to Toronto: Tour of the University
Act II Scene 9, The Lecture of Dr. Button
Act II Scene 16, The Babysitter and The Baby    (PA: I have no love to spare. I can’t bear sickness and pain in myself or others.)
From Act I, Ella MacDonald as Granny Crack: I was the mother of your sun / I was the sister of your moon
End of Act II: … 8 great grandparents, 4 grandparents, 2 parents, one child.

The King’s Theatrical Society (KTS) is a student-run theatrical organization, and every year students propose ideas for plays. The KTS Winter Season for 2017 also featured The Woman in Black by Stephen Malatratt (directed by Jessica MacIsaac), and Bone Cage by Catherine Banks (directed by Miranda Bowron). Here’s to more great plays next season!

For more about the play, see Ophelia Stone’s review in Watch Magazine.

James Reaney and Music: Musical bees, marching bands, and dandelion horns

Illustration from "All the Bees and All the Keys" (1973) from Scripts: Librettos for operas and other musical works (James Reaney 2004).
“All the Bees and All the Keys” (1973); illustration by Ross MacDonald.

In his November 5 talk on “James Reaney and Music”, composer John Beckwith recalls their collaboration on a children’s story with symphonic music, All the Bees and All the Keys: “He said he had always wanted to write about a) bees and bee-keeping and b) small-town Ontario marching bands.” Beckwith also mentioned a scene in James Reaney’s play I, The Parade, where a penniless band with no instruments has to perform with dandelion horns.

I, The Parade tells the story of bandmaster and composer Charles F. Thiele (1884-1954), bandmaster of the Waterloo Musical Society (1919-1951) and Father of Canadian Band Music.* Commissioned as part of the City of Waterloo’s 125th anniversary celebrations, the play was presented at the University of Waterloo in November 1982.

Bandmaster C.F. Thiele leading the Waterloo Musical Society Band, 1947. Photo courtesy Waterloo Public Library (images.ourontario.ca)
Bandmaster C.F. Thiele leading the Waterloo Musical Society Band, 1947. Photo courtesy Waterloo Public Library (images.ourontario.ca)

In I, The Parade, the penniless dandelion-horn band appears in a story-within-a-story (told by Charles F. Thiele’s mother and father) that hints at some of the history of the Waterloo Band and its rivalry with the Berlin [Kitchener] Band. As John Mellor notes in his memoir about Professor Thiele, “This keen rivalry between the bands of Waterloo and Berlin/Kitchener became so intense that for a long period no Berlin musicians played in the Waterloo band and vice versa.”**

In this scene from Act I, trumpeter Albert Nafzinger is blackballed from joining the Music Society Band because he lives in the rival village. His sister, Gretel, desperate to play in a band but without an instrument, forms a band of her own: “… and they played with the stems of dandelions — which they called dandelion horns […]”

MARCHING SONG

One two three together
Let’s hear it from the drum
Never mind if it’s a rusty kettle
Down the street we come
Down Park Street, down Union Street,
Turning right on King
Up Albert Street, up Margaret
Playing, playing

Buzzing like a bumble bee
Our music’s easy come by.
Break your horn, we’ll never mind:
On Park Street &c. A PASSERBY PUTS A PENNY IN THEIR DRUM.

[Angry at not getting into the band, Albert plots his revenge:]

ALBERT: Gretel, how much would you give me for my trumpet.
GRETEL: Albert. (PAUSE) You didn’t get into the village band.
ALBERT: I’ll get them. I’m not getting mad, no I’m getting even. […]
GRETEL: I’d give anything, do anything to have a trumpet that was my own.
ALBERT: Listen – this is what you must do then. First of all I have Sunday morning rights to practise – I can’t quite give it up, but there’s lots of lonely places outside town I can practise. But – cut your hair real short, put on a suit of my clothes and audition for the empty place in the band and. (PAUSE) It’s all yours.
GRETEL: Do you think I’d get in the band?
ALBERT: If you do, I’ll have my revenge on them. But – if they keep you out – I still keep the trumpet.
GRETEL: And my hair grows back and I can wear a dress again. Albert. (PAUSE) Albert, let me play a bit. Please.
HE DANGLES IT OVER HER HEAD, THEN RUNS OFF WITH IT.

Two pages form the draft manuscript for "I, The Parade" (1981-1982) courtesy Western University Archives James Reaney Fonds AFC 18.
Two pages from the draft manuscript for “I, The Parade” (1981-1982) courtesy Western University Archives, James Reaney Fonds AFC 18.

Note from Susan Reaney: This scene is excerpted from a draft manuscript version of I, The Parade, which is part of the James Reaney fonds at Western University Archives. The title at the top reads “Sally Trombone”, which is a ragtime-influenced novelty tune from 1917 featuring a “trombone smear” (true glissando), the specialty of composer and bandleader Henry Fillmore (1881-1956).

* For more about C.F. Thiele, see John Mellor’s book Music in the Park: C.F. Thiele Father of Canadian Band Music (1988), Waterloo, Ontario. ISBN 0-9692301-2-5
** John Mellor, Music in the Park, page 18.

All the Bees and All the Keys; illustration by Ross MacDonald.
Illustration by Ross MacDonald from “All the Bees and All the Keys” (1973) from Scripts: Librettos for operas and other musical works (James Reaney 2004).

 

Apple Butter off to the Western Fair Summer 1965

August 23-29, 1965 in Leith, Ontario — Family friend Leith Peterson shares this Polaroid photo taken by her mother, Jay Peterson (1920-1976), who invited James Reaney and family up to her cottage at Leith to create the marionettes for James Reaney’s children’s play Apple Butter.

Here are the Reaney children (James, John, and Susan) and Jay’s niece Elizabeth Tinker with new-made marionette Apple Butter, soon to make his stage debut at the Western Fair in London (September 3-12, 1965).

August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: The Reaney children with new-made marionette Apple Butter just before his September debut at the Western fair in London. From left to right: Susan Reaney (age 6), James Stewart Reaney (age 13) holding Elizabeth Tinker (age 2), and John Andrew Reaney (age 11). (Photo by Jay Peterson courtesy Leith Peterson.)
August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: From left to right: Susan Reaney (age 6), James Stewart Reaney (age 12 1/2) holding Elizabeth Tinker (age 16 months), and John Andrew Reaney (age 11). James Reaney (age 38) holds Apple Butter. (Photo by Jay Peterson courtesy Leith Peterson.)

For more about Jay Peterson and her role in commissioning the marionette plays and helping create the marionettes, see Leith Peterson’s article, “Jamie and Jay Peterson’s 1965 Apple Butter Collaboration”.

  ♦◊♦

James Reaney and family in 1965 in Leith, Ontario. Standing left to right are the adults: Colleen Reaney, Wilma McCaig (Jamie's sister), and James Reaney. The children are John Andrew Reaney, James Stewart Reaney, and Susan Reaney (beside Applebutter). Photo by Jay Peterson.
James Reaney and family in 1965 in Leith, Ontario. Standing left to right are the adults: Colleen Reaney, Wilma McCaig (Jamie’s sister), and James Reaney. The children are John Andrew Reaney, James Stewart Reaney, and Susan Reaney (beside Apple Butter). Photo by Jay Peterson.

Paul Thompson’s The Last Donnelly Standing at Blyth Festival

Gil Garratt as Robert Donnelly in "The Last Donnelly Standing" at the Blyth Festival August 11 to September 2, 2016
Gil Garratt as Robert Donnelly in “The Last Donnelly Standing” at the Blyth Festival August 4 to September 2, 2016 (Photo by Terry Manzo courtesy The Blyth Festival.)

 

Paul Thompson‘s new play The Last Donnelly Standing at the Blyth Festival (August 4 to September 2) tells the tale of Robert Donnelly, one of the surviving family members of The Biddulph Tragedy.

Co-creator Gil Garratt stars as Robert Donnelly in this one-man show, a fitting sequel to Paul Thompson’s epic Outdoor Donnellys, presented at the Blyth Festival in 2001, 2002, and 2004.

Gil Garratt as Robert Donnelly in "The Last Donnelly Standing" (Photo by Terry Manzo courtesy The Blyth Festival.)
Gil Garratt as Robert Donnelly in “The Last Donnelly Standing” (Photo by Terry Manzo courtesy The Blyth Festival.)

In The Donnelly Documents: An Ontario Vendetta, James Reaney notes that “what follows here is an account of the events that culminated in the killing of the ‘somewhat notorious Donnelly family’ [4 February 1880] and what happened to the survivors, William and Robert Donnelly, up to their departure from Lucan in 1883. Indeed, subsequent events merit another volume: their arrival in their new home in Glencoe; the fact that the Donnelly brothers retained their father’s farm in Biddulph; that in 1905, Robert came back to live in Lucan, along with his nephew, James Michael, son of the ill-fated Michael Donnelly…” (See The Donnelly Documents: An Ontario Vendetta, page xv.)

For more about the play, see Joe Belanger in The London Free Press and JBNBlog.

A true fan has provided a pre-show video of Gil Garratt in character as Robert Donnelly here: https://www.facebook.com/james.reaney.14?fref=pb&hc_location=friends_tab&pnref=friends.all

LastDonnelly

See also “James Reaney on writing about the Donnellys”: https://jamesreaney.com/2015/03/james-reaney-on-writing-about-the-donnellys/

 

Colours in the Dark and Mr. Winemeyer

Goderich, Ontario -- Sculptures by George Laithwaite (1871-1956)
Goderich, Ontario — Sculptures by George Laithwaite (1871-1956)

In Act II of James Reaney’s play Colours in the Dark, two boys visit the mysterious Mr. Winemeyer, a sculptor hermit. George Laithwaite (1871-1956), a farmer near Goderich, Ontario, created cement sculptures around his farm and is the inspiration for the character Mr. Winemeyer.

Here is an excerpt from Act II, Scenes 3 and 4, where the two boys visit the old hermit, Mr. Winemeyer, and see his sculptures.

[…]

BOY 1: Where’d you get the peacock feather, Mr. Winemeyer?

HERMIT: Had a pet peacock once when I was a boy. A big old sow we had had a peeve about it – and one day caught it in the orchard and devoured it. This – was all that was left of my beautiful bird. Sticking out of that beast’s mouth.

BOY 1: holding the feather  And nothing else has happened to you lately?

HERMIT: Well – yes – this happened. I happened to be out in the yard scraping out my frying pan when coming down through the air I saw – a falling star.

It does. It is yellow.

BOY 2: What are you going to do with this falling star, Mr. Winemeyer?

June 2016 near Goderich, Ontario, "Moses" sculpture by George Laithwaite (1871-1956). (Photos courtesy JS Reaney.)
June 2016 near Goderich, Ontario, “Moses” sculpture by George Laithwaite (1871-1956). (Photos courtesy JS Reaney.)

4. CEMENT SCULPTURES

SCREEN: Actual slides of the Goderich, Ontario, primitive sculptor Laithwaite – his cement figures.

HERMIT: Come out with me to the orchard and see my latest cement sculptures.

On cue, the sculpture slides appear. They could also be mimed by the Company.

Now here’s Sir John A. at the plow!
Here’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That’s the only film I’ve ever seen and the only one I’ll ever see. You can’t go any higher than that in film art.

BOY 2: Who’s this?

HERMIT: That’s the infant Riel suckled by the buffalo Manitoba.

BOY 1: What’s this one doing, Mr. Winemeyer?

HERMIT: I finished that last April — that’s Mackenzie King cultivating the rows of compromise. Now – here is where I’m using this falling star. Here’s Good – in a terrible combat with his brother Evil – over – this.

He places the star between the statue-actor’s hands. The star has now become a lump of rock.

BOY 2: Could I have a piece of that star?
HERMIT: Why sure. These two projecting knobs will never be missed. Both have a piece.
BOYS: Gee, thank you, Mr. Winemeyer.

We hear music. The Windlady appears with her Rain Doll.

HERMIT: Now there’s a good subject for a piece of sculpture.
BOYS: What, Mr. Winemeyer?
HERMIT: The Wind and the Rain.

He and his statues fade slowly. BOY 1 starts playing the bicycle spokes. BOY 2 goes back and says:

BOY 2: Mr. Winemeyer – was the pig your brother? Were you the peacock?

Mr. Winemeyer shakes his head.

SCREEN: Centre panel shows a large star.

♦♦♦♦

♦ For more about James Reaney’s imaginative use of George Laithwaite’s sculptures, see James Stewart Reaney’s article, Concrete sculptures still ‘play’ well.

♦ For a delightful tour of George Laithwaite’s sculptures (summer and winter!), see Harrison Engle’s film “Legacy” (1960?), which features commentary by Laithwaite’s family and J.H. Neill, then Curator of the Huron County Pioneer Museum.

Colours in the Dark by James Reaney is available from Talonbooks.

Colours in the Dark by James Reaney published by Talonbooks
Colours in the Dark by James Reaney published by Talonbooks
Goderich, Ontario -- Sir John A. Macdonald sculpture by George Laithwaite.
Goderich, Ontario — Sir John A. Macdonald sculpture by George Laithwaite.