A Dramaturg, A DeHavilland Beaver & Rebecca Stomps & CriesWednesday, December 07, 2011
|Rachel Ditor - Dramaturg
My wife Rosemary and I went to the opening of the Arts Club Theatre’s production of The Patron Saint of Stanley Park last year. We enjoyed it, particularly as the story, by Hiro Kanagawa, was a new one and Vancouver was central to it. It was about Christmas and much more so, as no Christmas songs or carols were featured even though Santa made a brief appearance! But we quickly forgot about the play and it became a haze of many other plays that we saw after and before.
But not so the second time around. You see it has all to do with the fact that last Monday, I went to this year’s opening of it at the Granville Island Review Stage, with my granddaughter Rebecca, 14. She cried before we got to Granville Island and then she cried during the performance. This will be a play that will live in my memory for a long time and I could almost guarantee in my granddaughter’s too.
The path to Monday’s tearful affair began a week before when Rebecca and I went to visit the Arts Club Theatre Company’s resident dramaturg, Rachel Ditor, at her nicely appointed and most intimate apartment, a stone throw’s from the Stanley Theatre.
We both quickly found out what a dramaturg does. The shortest definition would be that it is a person (most diplomatic and patient a person) who is the go-between a playwright and the needs of a theatre company and its director. It seems that this process, in some cases can go on for five years. This patience was manifest in the ease that Ditor explained to my Rebecca what she does. In particular she said something that left me perplexed. She said that in working with The Patron Saint of Stanley Park’s creator, Hiro Kanagawa, she found him not very sentimental! And yet the play is full of the sentimentality of the bygone days before Guinness money built the First Narrow’s Bridge over Burrard Inlet. I did not want to ask as she was talking to Rebecca and not to me. I was Rebecca’s photographer! Rebecca was in her best behaviour and she almost matched Ditor’s sophisticated presence. Rebecca's poise was to fade away by Monday.
The day of the play when I went to pick up Rebecca there was a great operatic type of hullabaloo that resulted in my daughter taking possession of Rebecca’s digital texting device. She cried and stomped her feet in the car and kicked every one of the flexible orange posts (with her new UGG type boots, natch!) all the way from the parking lot to the Review Stage.
By the time we sat down by the bar and my friend Christopher Dafoe and his wife Carol came up to me to say hello, Rebecca was a mess of streaked makeup and surly silence.
Things picked up a tad when we sat down as CBC’s Margaret Gallagher (Hot Air) was next to her. There is no way anybody could possibly be serious and depressed with her around! Then the lights went out and the play began.
I must at this point place here a disclaimer; I happen to love passionately anything connected with the DeHavilland DCH-2 Beaver float plane. The Patron Saint of Stanly Park has two ephemeral protagonists. One is completely invisible but audible, the De Havilland Beaver and the other appears as a ghost, Derik Metz. The latter you can hear in a perfectly clear, wonderful, believable and soothing voice. Derek Metz plays the ghost father of the two angst-ridden children (one a teenager, Valsy Bergeron as Jennifer and Joseph Gustafson as her younger brother Josh). As an aside, Derik Metz would never be able to get a job in that new and “edgy” 21st century CBC as he does have that wonderful voice, and, worst of all, shows no sign of a speech impediment!
Since Skookum Pete, nicely and gruffly played by Brian Linds, has special connections (a sort of prototypical form of Wi-Fi) with De Havilland Beavers flying over Stanley Park, I immediately connected with Kanagawa’s play.
Had I moved to live in North Vancouver years ago I would now be dead. I do not live in North Van! Every time I do cross (watch out, I drive a silver 2007 Chevrolet Malibu) the First Narrows Bridge I look up when I listen to the unmistakable put-put noise of the Beaver’s Pratt & Whitney radial engine. Long ago I would have crashed my car!
Hiro Kanagawa's play has everything a Christmas play should have. It is sentimental, wonderful and it has a sort of happy ending. But there is more to it beyond special effects that rival the old BC Hydro Building lit up at night 30 years ago.
It has all to do with the nuclear family of the two children and Jillian Fargey as their mother Marcia. Their father, Kevin has not returned since a trip up (he was a commercial pilot flying float planes) on Christmas Eve a year before. The family is attempting to cope and Fargey is the patient and understanding mother (all torn up inside, nonetheless) who tries to rein in her children from their despair and loss.
Fargey seemed exactly like my ever patient daughter Hilary, and Josh, my younger granddaughter Lauren who Jennifer (my Rebecca) maligns and mistreats as only teenagers can. Josh and Jennifer fought over a laptop which brought not so fond memories of a trip to Texas in July with the two girls in the back seat of our Malibu fighting for the very same thing.
Watching Valsy Bergeron’s performance (as she dealt with her brother and mother) was exactly what I had experienced moments before at Rebecca’s home. It was an uncanny parallel beyond any imitation. I was afraid to look at Rebecca. I wondered what she was thinking as the drama unfolded on stage.
Kevin (Derek Metz) comes back in several shapes and forms to talk and set straight his family. It was when he was talking to Jennifer (Valsy Bergeron) that tears began to run down Rebecca.
After the show Rebecca and Rachel Ditor exchanged on the moments when they both had cried. I asked Rebecca what she thought of Bergeron’s performance. Marcia kept pushing back Jennifer’s long hair, obviously straightened every morning as most girls of that age do these days. And Jennifer would defiantly pull it forward again. Her makeup was identical to my Rebecca’s.
Rebecca said that her performance was over-the-top and not believable. I begged to differ so I enquired as to Valsy Bergeron’s age. She is 15.
The Patron Saint of Stanley Park will not only entertain and transfer lots of Christmas spirit and cheer in your direction but it will also teach you a few most relevant things if there are any teenagers in your family. As I left the play I thought that only three years before I had photographed my Rebecca holding Lilly the Cat in front of a Tiko Kerr painting that featured a DeHavilland Beaver taking off from the very area that our ghostly Kevin did a few Christmas Eve’s ago.
Perhaps Rebecca’s play-induced catharsis will soften her up a bit and while she might not pose with that stuffed cat, like the children in the play, she will return to me happy again, with no kicking and crying and with her digital device tucked away for a while.
The Patron Saint of Stanley Park at the Revue Stage in Granville Island plays until December 24.