Remember My Mother’s Story, a staged dramatic reading by the Chair Actors of Sechelt, held last year in Sechelt? The audience was enchanted by the maternal memories from the actors who played out their scenes with great honesty.
This year, 10 adults are preparing to remember their fathers in a similar dramatic reading on Sunday, March 24 — My Father’s Story. But this is no sentimental journey — sure, they loved their dads, in most cases, although some did not know their parent very well. The actors’ ages range from 60 to 90 — many of their memories encompass a long bygone era.
“I’m envious of the material these people bring to the show,” said director Martin Evans. “They not only know the facts, they have photos to back it up.”
The actors will show some visuals of their family trees.
Evans adds, “I encourage everyone to talk to their parents about their lives while they’re still alive.”
Evans has a wealth of experience as an actor, director, set designer and teacher in Alberta and with Carousel Theatre. Last year’s director was Louise Phillips, who will now join the others in presenting her own father’s life. Phillips is also the script writer who has woven all the stories together into an intriguing cohesive performance.
“The most uncertain aspect of this rehearsal has been the health of some cast members, who keep succumbing to flu and worse,” said Phillips.
The oldest, Mary Monks, is 92 and in uncertain health, so Phillips was faced with finding a substitute reader for her role. As she is also Phillips’ mother, she found this heart-wrenching, but managed to find another fit 92-year-old named Paddy Silverthorne.
“This lady is new to the Coast and was looking for an activity,” Phillips said. “She is not only a wonderful reader with a beautiful Anglo-Irish voice, but she even resembles members of my mother’s family!”
Phillips notes a challenge this year in that so many daughters did not get as close to their fathers as they did to their mothers, and they had to use guesswork to fill in the gaps. Nonetheless the stories abound: what dad wore, his religion, his swearwords, his sports, his hobbies, his music.
Some talked about Dad’s good advice, given freely to the sons, about what career path to follow. The fathers were a product of their times, often chauvinist, expecting the girls to do the housework. And they were often racially prejudiced, having lived through the war in which they called Germans and Italians by names we would not stand for today.
They had health problems, some caused by alcohol. The actors are honest about the alcohol abuse, how it affected the family and how it helped their dads to grow old before their time. One father raised homing pigeons for war service. Many served in conflicts overseas. Two others didn’t bother to get a divorce before they remarried. Half emigrated from a war-affected country to start a new life in Canada.
Sadly, some never really got to know their fathers at all. This reading has given them a chance to say all the things they could have said — and to guess at what dad might have said back to them.
“There’s an emotional underpinning to the show,” said Evans. “We can’t really know how the audience will react — with laughter or tears — until the day of the show.” It’s guaranteed to bring back memories for everyone.
My Father’s Story, a staged reading, takes place on Sunday, March 24, at 3 p.m. at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre, 5604 Trail Ave. Tickets are $10 at the door or at the centre in advance. Call Louise Phillips at 604-885-0706, or Ed White at 604-885-3916 or see: www.secheltseniors.com/chair_act.html.