Archives: Canadian drama

Apple Butter at the Kingston Fringe

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

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.

Stratford Literary Walking Tour 2016

Stratford Literary Walking Tour 2016

Come celebrate Stratford Ontario’s literary heritage and take the Stratford Literary Walking Tour — James Reaney’s old high school Stratford Central Secondary School is one of ten stops on the way.

James Reaney was born and raised on a farm three miles east of Stratford in South Easthope Township, and he bicycled to and from high school every day for five years (1939-1944).

Between the highschool & the farmhouse
In the country and the town
It was a world of love and of feeling
Continually floating down
— From James Reaney’s poem “The Bicycle” (1962)

"The Bicycle" illustration by James Reaney from Twelve Letters to A Small Town (1962)

“The Bicycle” illustration by James Reaney from Twelve Letters to A Small Town (1962)

 

For more of James Reaney’s Stratford and Perth County inspired writing, see the links below:

Plays:

 Colours in the Dark (1967)

Short stories:

The Box Social and Other Stories (1996)

Poems:

“The Royal Visit” (1949)

“The Windyard” (1956)

 From Twelve Letters To A Small Town, “The Bicycle” (1962) and “Shakespearean Gardens” (1962)

 “Going for the Mail” (1964)

 “Gifts” (1965)

 “Maps” (2005)

 “Brush Strokes Decorating a Fan” (2005)

 “The Fan” (2005)

 “Elderberry Cottage” (2005)

Perth County history:

 The Story of North Easthope (1982)

August 2010 -- James Reaney's birthplace and childhood home near Stratford, Ontario.

August 2010 — James Reaney’s birthplace and childhood home near Stratford, Ontario. The farmhouse was built in 1875 and demolished in 2015.

 

Apple Butter off to the Western Fair Summer 1965

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.

Colours in the Dark and Mr. Winemeyer

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.

Tarragon Theatre’s “The Donnelly Project” May 14 in Scarborough

Tarragon Theatre’s “The Donnelly Project” May 14 in Scarborough

Congratulations to the students of R.H. King and Agincourt Secondary Schools and students from the University of Toronto Scarborough for their wonderful outdoor performance of “The Donnelly Project”, a special adaptation of three scenes from James Reaney’s Sticks and Stones: The Donnellys Part I.

Adapted by Tarragon Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence Kat Sandler, “The Donnelly Project” gives drama students from Scarborough the chance to explore an early Tarragon Theatre script. The Tarragon Theatre celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, and James Reaney’s Sticks and Stones: The Donnellys Part I was first performed there on November 24, 1973.

For more about the event, see “The Donnelly Project at Scarbrough Arts Park” and Eleanor Besly’s interview with co-director Zach McKendrick.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Reaney, Saturday May 14 at the Scarborough Arts Park, 1859 Kingston Road, Scarborough, Ontario.

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

The Donnelly Project performers

The Donnelly Project performers

The Donnelly Project

The Donnelly Project (3)

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

The Donnelly Project, Scarborough, Ontario

Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Edmonton February 27 to March 20

Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Edmonton February 27 to March 20

This month, Alice resumes her journey across Canada as James Reaney’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass opens at the Edmonton Citadel’s Shoctor Theatre on February 27 to March 20.

Christine Brubaker continues as the director of this Alice revival, and Ellie Heath plays Alice. The show was a hit at the 2014 Stratford Festival and has now toured across Canada in Ottawa, Charlottetown, and Winnipeg.

To purchase tickets, call 1-888-425-1820 (780-425-1820) or order online here.

 What reviewers are saying: Adults will love it. The eight-year-old sitting beside me was mesmerized by the whole experience.” — Colin Maclean in Gigcity.ca

An hilarious, over-the-top romp!” — John Richardson in Behind the Hedge

An all-star team of your favourite actors, Edmonton’s funniest.” — Liz Nicholls in The Edmonton Journal

Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Edmonton, February 27 to March 20, 2016.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Edmonton, February 27 to March 20, 2016.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass director Jillian Keiley with actors playing Alice across Canada: Gwendolyn Collins (Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre), Ellie Heath (Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre), Trish Lindström (the Stratford Festival) and, seated, Natasha Greenblatt (NAC and Charlottetown's Confederation Centre of the Arts). Photographed in the Palm Room of Spadina House, Toronto, June 2015.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass director Jillian Keiley with actors playing Alice across Canada: Gwendolyn Collins (Winnipeg), Ellie Heath (Edmonton), Trish Lindström (Stratford Festival) and, seated, Natasha Greenblatt (Ottawa and Charlottetown). Photographed in the Palm Room of Spadina House, Toronto, June 2015.

Ellie Heath as Alice in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Edmonton Citadel Theatre, February 27 to March 20, 2016

Ellie Heath as Alice in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Edmonton Citadel Theatre, February 27 to March 20, 2016

Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass: adapted for the stage by James Reaney is available from the Porcupine’s Quill.

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Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Winnipeg November 25 to December 19

Alice Through the Looking-Glass in Winnipeg November 25 to December 19

James Reaney’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass opens at the Manitoba Theatre Centre at the John Hirsch Mainstage this month on November 25 to December 19.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, November 28 to December 19, 2015

Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, November 25 to December 19, 2015

Originally directed by Jillian Keiley, this production was a hit at last summer’s Stratford Festival and  has now played in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre and in Charlottetown at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Christine Brubaker is the director of the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s production. After Winnipeg, Alice’s next stop is the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, February 27 to March 20, 2016.

To purchase tickets, call 1-877-446-4500 (204-942-6537) or order online here.

 Not to be missed! Special “Monday Mix” pre-show chat on December 7

“Talkback” post-show Q&A on December 1, 8, 15, and 16

 What reviewers are saying:Manitoba actors and brilliant visuals make it a must to visit Alice!” — Randall King in The Winnipeg Free Press

Gwendolyn Collins on playing Alice: I think Alice has rubbed off on me a little.The Winnipeg Free Press

Gwendolyn Collins as Alice, Tristan Carlucci as Tweedledum, and Aaron Pridham as Tweedledee in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. (Photo courtesy Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre)

Gwendolyn Collins as Alice, Tristan Carlucci as Tweedledum, and Aaron Pridham as Tweedledee in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. (Photo courtesy Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre)

Sunday September 26, 2015 in Winnipeg: Special guests play chess with Alice (Gwendolyn Collins) down at The Forks (Culture Days 2015).

Sunday September 26, 2015 in Winnipeg: Special guests play chess with Alice (Gwendolyn Collins) down at The Forks (Culture Days 2015).

Alice Through the Looking-Glass costume designs by Bretta Gerecke, courtesy Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass costume designs by Bretta Gerecke, courtesy Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

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November 3, 2015: The cast of Alice Through the Looking-Glass, courtesy Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

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Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass: adapted for the stage by James Reaney is available from the Porcupine’s Quill.

Composer John Beckwith’s music at the Canadian Music Centre

Composer John Beckwith’s music at the Canadian Music Centre

JBCMC

James Reaney was fortunate to have composer John Beckwith set many of his poems to music: The Great Lakes Suite, A Message to Winnipeg, and Twelve Letters to a Small Town. Beckwith and Reaney also collaborated on longer operas Night-blooming Cereus, The Shivaree, and Crazy to Kill.

To listen to original recordings of Beckwith-Reaney works, visit the Canadian Music Centre‘s Composer Showcase and  set up an account – it’s free!

James Reaney and John Beckwith, Summer 2003, in London, Ontario. Photo by Colleen Reaney.

James Reaney and John Beckwith, Summer 2003, in London, Ontario. Photo by Colleen Reaney.

 

Note from Susan Reaney: In his new memoir, Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer,  John Beckwith recalls his career as a composer, including his collaborations with James Reaney. The book is available from Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Goodbye to the Farm

Goodbye to the Farm

August 2010 -- James Reaney's birthplace and childhood home near Stratford, Ontario.

August 2010 — James Reaney’s birthplace and childhood home near Stratford, Ontario.

August 15, 2015 — a sad day — we learned that the old farmhouse where James Reaney was born has been torn down. Our thanks to Laura Cudworth of The Stratford Beacon Herald for covering the story: http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/2015/08/22/the-childhood-home-of-renowned-south-easthope-author-james-reaney-has-been-torn-down

Fondly remembered by the Reaney, Cooke, and Chamberlin Franken families, here are photos of the farm as it was. If you remember the farm and have a photo to share, please get in touch.

 

Summer 1937 -- teh reaney farmhouse and the old barnyard (Photo by Elizabeth Crearar Reaney)

Summer 1937 — The Reaney farmhouse and the old barnyard.  The original barn was built in 1869, and the house was built in 1875.

Summer 1937 -- James Reaney's cousin Kathy Smith by the front garden (ECR)

Summer 1937 — James Reaney’s cousin Kathy Smith by the front garden.

ge 4) with his cousins, Elsie, Kathleen, and Mary, Summer 1930 near Stratford, Ontario.

Elsie, Kathleen, and Mary Smith with their cousin James Reaney (age 4) at the farm, Summer 1930.

James Reaney in the garden at the farm, July 1985 (Photo by Wilma McCaig).

James Reaney in the garden at the farm, July 1985. (Photo by Wilma McCaig)

 

© 2017 James Reaney