Some may think of this as a love story. And it is in a way. Love for theatre and love for my partner in crime! You can decide.
After about 40 years and well over 160 community and professional productions across Southern Ontario, acting, directing, stage managing, designing and painting sets, heading up props and costumes, pulling ropes, climbing ladders, running lights, sweeping stage floors, cleaning bathrooms, and sitting on numerous theatre committees and boards including ACT-Co, EODL and Theatre ON, we decided to retire to beautiful Cobourg and do a little less. HA! We chose Cobourg for many reasons, but an important aspect was that wherever we lived there had to be a vibrant theatre community. That was 2006 and we have never looked back. A large circle of the dear friends we have in Cobourg we met through the Northumberland Players and through theatre in general – what a wonderful world.
The first NP show we saw was a dinner theatre in 2006 and we saw endless opportunities for getting involved. It took about three months to make the initial contact, but once we did, we jumped in with both feet….Chris went onto the Board immediately and I ended up in Maggie’s Getting Married – 2007 (Chris designed the sound). During the audition I was sure I didn’t have a chance for a part when Helen Matthew waltzed in waving hellos to all and sundry – “there’s the competition”, I thought (as there was no one else our age there to play the mother). Luckily for me the director liked my style. As for Helen, we became fast friends and have worked together on several productions one way or another over the years here.
It is always great fun for Chris and me to work on shows together and I’m delighted and proud to say we are still happily married! We love sharing creative ideas and bouncing ideas back and forth. Initially we weren’t sure what the protocol was for the NP with spouses directing spouses, so we held back for a bit. But, after that first production in 2007 and working on numerous NP shows together in various capacities, we finally decided to take the plunge when Chris cast me in Steel Magnolias, 2010, as M’Lyn; a role I had wanted for a quite some time. Auditions weren’t easy…there was some very stiff competition – namely Honor Sylvester. I had to work very hard to land that role, to prove I was worthy. Honor was cast as Clairee – rehearsals were riotous and another fast friendship developed. Chris had to get his SM to ask us to behave! As it turns out I got cast in another production of Steel Magnolias a few years later in Port Hope but this time I played Clairee and Honor played M’Lyn. Fair play!!
The tables were turned later that year when I got to direct Chris in the superb cast of Having Hope at Home, 2010, an award-winning production for NP, I am proud to say. This production brought back many memories of the first time I directed Chris in A Month of Sundays many years before in Oakville!
Casting a spouse can be challenging…knowing which buttons to push to get what you want out of the character is a trick you learn to use, always inciting laughter from the cast and crew. Relying on your stage manager to keep the spouse in line, should there be a difference of opinion, is a must. That being said, it’s very rewarding to watch your spouse up on the stage bringing a character to life.
A really fun show was The Mousetrap when Chris directed a stellar cast and I designed a huge set built by David McTavish and friends. Every day, a new prototype for an addition to the set was left at our back door for approval…from the door handles to the styroform trim and freizes. David was having fun.
Then came the direction of Waiting for the Parade and Chris designing sound. I’m thrilled to say it won Best Play, Best Director and numerous acting awards for the Players from EODL and Theatre Ontario…what a joy! The cast was a dream and included an old and dear friend in Carol Beauchamp whom I had directed a few times in the Oakville area. It is a small world, theatre.
Sharing the joy and magic of a successful show together is a tremendous pleasure. We’ve lost count of the number of shows we have worked on with the Players but we certainly have squeezed in a lot in the 14 years we’ve been in Cobourg. So much for doing less when we moved to a quieter place. But, we are tremendously thankful for the Players and the opportunities it has allowed us to share as a couple and individually.
Now we wait and wait some more to continue our journey once the pandemic is on the decline. I am waiting to pick up the reins again as director of You Will Remember Me with my hubby in tow as sound designer and trusted friends Kara Besson as Stage Manager, Marg Hilborn and Laura Garton as Producers. We have blocked it, the amazing cast is waiting patiently in the wings for the words “it’s time to revive our rehearsals”… bring it on – 2021.