So, after spending over seven years in a self-imposed absence from community theatre, I suddenly found myself performing in three different plays in as many counties this spring.
Regular readers of this column might recall that I recently served as the facilitator for “Senior Moments,” a theatrical revue that made up one-third of Richmond County’s ambitious New Horizons Arts For Seniors project. You might also remember me discussing my role in “The Passion,” a theatrical fundraiser for St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Judique that staged two shows on Good Friday.
Simultaneously, I began rehearsals for my first-ever production with the “Guysborough Players,” Cluesical, a comedy-musical-mystery based on the long-running board game Clue. We staged two dinner-theatre versions of the show this past Friday and Saturday at Guysborough’s Days Gone By Bakery, with a more basic run of the production on Sunday evening at the Chedabucto Curling Club in Boylston.
Last week, two of these shows played starring roles in my schedule on a single day.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Louisdale, I joined the cast and crew of “Senior Moments” for a dinner at the Seal Cove Restaurant that celebrated the group’s six performances over the past three months. These included full shows in L’Ardoise, Louisdale, Petit de Grat, and Lower River, a shortened version for the folks at Richmond Villa in St. Peter’s, and a 20-minute skit performance as part of the Mind-Body-Spirit expo on May 12 in Louisdale.
Only a couple of hours after this joyful reunion, I hit the road for Guysborough for one of the last run-throughs of Cluesical. As I drove home from one of the best performances this talented cast and crew had delivered since I joined their rehearsals in late March, I found myself marvelling at the parallels between these two productions.
Cluesical was directed by “Guysborough Players” veteran Kate Tompkins, who also delivered a virtuoso performance as fading musical star Katerina Divamuch. Senior Moments didn’t have a director per se; as the facilitator, I led writing, acting and singing workshops, fleshed out a running order for the show, provided piano accompaniment for several songs and served as a game-show announcer in one skit. But the real heavy lifting was done by our hardworking cast and crew, many of whom had no previous theatrical experience.
Cluesical provided a unique challenge in that it didn’t come with a script. We had basic character and plot outlines but developed our own individual backstories, dialogue and body language, with some of these elements only coming together in the final week of rehearsal. “Senior Moments” had two script-less segments – the previously-mentioned game show spoof Da Mudder Tung, led by Stan Richards as host “Alex Forget,” and Gerry Samson’s delightful monologue of characters he had met during his years of working at Point Tupper’s paper mill. But the rest was scripted, largely by our workshop participants.
The oldest member of the “Senior Moments” cast is 76. He’s four years younger than the oldest member of the Cluesical cast. By contrast, Cluesical’s youngest performer is 13, whereas “Senior Moments’” youngest performer was – well, 45-year-old me. (Unless you count the elementary-school members of the Richmond Highlanders dance troupe that accompanied us for shows in L’Ardoise, Louisdale and Lower River Inhabitants.)
Among the songs featured in “Senior Moments”: Cast member Claire Jeffrey’s original number “We Were Cool Back Then” and her rewritten versions of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Moonshiner,” Newfoundland favourites “Saltwater Joys” and “Yellow Pee Holes In The Snow,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” the Delores Boudreau-penned Rise and Follies of Cape Breton Island parody “Everybody’s Going To The Bingo,” and a heart-tugging Betty Burke rendition of Alistair MacGillivray’s “You’ll Be Home Again.”
Among the songs featured in Cluesical: “Getting To Know You” from The King and I, “Take Me As I Am” from Jekyll and Hyde, Jimmie Rodgers’ “In The Jailhouse Now,” and two ‘80s chestnuts, Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking On Sunshine” and Air Supply’s “Even The Nights Are Better.” And I can’t forget our opening number, “Give Us A Mystery,” a snappy tune originally performed by an eight-year-old Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in their 1994 production The Case Of The Thorn Mansion.
It’s been a joy to be a part of each of these shows (as with “The Passion”) and I’m thrilled to announce their next steps: “Senior Moments” will do one last performance at the Festival of the Strait’s seniors dinner on July 2 in Port Hawkesbury, before we lay the groundwork for a new original production this fall. And Cluesical is gearing up for a September date in Antigonish County.
The curtain may be falling for now, but I’m thrilled that it’s about to rise again for all these incredible folks who have given me the honour of joining them this spring.