Written and Photographed By Gabrielle Tieman
Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects will make local theatre history this month, closing their 2013/14 season with a lot of firsts. As one of six theatre companies worldwide to premiere works by internationally acclaimed Canadian playwright George F. Walker, Lyndesfarne will be the first theatre in the world to debut Walker’s play The Ravine – a first premiere for the theatre company.
Walker, known as the king of black comedy, will personally help close Lyndesfarne’s 2013/14 season as both the writer and director of the premiere production of The Ravine, a gritty, dark comedy.
Brimming with timely political commentary, this story of murder and mayhem focuses on a mysterious homeless woman who emerges with dark secrets that threaten to undo the career aspirations of an up and coming mayoral candidate of a large Canadian city.
Though it may have a traditional political base, this play could not be further from your typical drama. Highlighting Walker’s classic signature of hilariously twisted characters, wicked dark comedy and realistic storytelling, The Ravine challenges our perceptions of what it means to be human.
But Walker says that it is his careful balance of comedy mixed with dark brashness that prevents audiences from running scared after a performance.
“When you take the comedy out of my plays, they’re really dark,” said Walker. “They are kind of hopeless without it. There is always some violence and there is definitely language. I never write chit-chat. But this play holds reality and all forms and shapes of it, and the emotions will run high. It’s all about following the rhythms and balance of life.”
Over the past four decades, Walker’s work has won him countless awards and acknowledgements, including three Governor General’s Awards, five Dora Mavor Moore Awards for the Performing Arts, nine Chalmers Awards for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts and a recipient of the Order of Canada. But his writing is not limited to plays. Walker’s writing career includes extensive television and radio credits, having worked on screen as a creative consultant to Ken Finkleman’s Newsroom, as the creator and writer of Living in Your Car for TMN, This is Wonderland for CBC, The Weight on the Movie Network, and the feature film Niagara Motel.
As a huge supporter of local theatre and the arts, Walker hopes his play and Lyndesfarne’s efforts can encourage young writers and inspire more people to get involved in their local arts and theatre community.
“There are very few places in the world, I can’t even think of another one, where a theatre is starting up,” said Walker. “It is such a rare thing in this country and economy and I felt that this project was worth supporting. We don’t want new writers to think they have to go to New York to make it big. It would be great if they could just get out of their house and walk down the block and say ‘Read my play, I wrote it about this place and I wrote it about you.’”
Walker said he is also encouraged that Lyndesfarne’s productions will help bring life back to downtown Niagara and invigorate the community.
“I like the possibility of bringing [Queen] street back to life,” said Walker. “Because it is a special street; it’s the whole package really. You can tell how alive it could be and once was. But it takes a long time for word of mouth to get out there. But when it happens, I truly believe that it just starts to roll and things can start happening.”
Artistic Director Kelly Daniels has called the play a “huge coup for the theatre community” and says that Walker has given their grass roots theatre company the ultimate opportunity to expand and develop.
“This is probably the most exciting project ever in the history of our company,” said Daniels. “It has been absolutely incredible. A world premiere, our first at Lyndefarne, and it is written and directed by the man himself. It is something special and we hope Niagara supports it.”
Describing The Ravine as a “great brush with darkness” Daniels reiterated just how special this form of dark humour is in theatre.
“To power over or to be powered over by others is what the heart of this play is about,” said Daniels. “It is what we are all living right now, in some respect. [The Ravine] is topical, it is so timely and it is hysterical. ”
But Walker and Daniels both agreed that they cannot take all of the credit for the genius behind the play – it is Lyndesfarne’s cast that has brought The Ravine to life and created something really special.
Included in the performance are veteran Stratford and Shaw actors Karen Wood and William Vickers, award-winning and former Broadway actor and playwright Bruce Gooch, Leo-award winning screenwriter and Leo nominated actor John Callander, Gemini- awarding winning actress Sarah Murphy-Dyson and newcomer, Dana Puddicombe.
Preview performances are scheduled to begin March 22 to 27 at 7:30 p.m. with special matinees running March 26 and 27 at 11:30 a.m.
Can’t make it to a preview performance? Regular performances will begin with The Ravines opening March 28 at the Seneca Queen Theatre (http://www.ltpniagara.com/TicketsEvents/TheSenecaQueenTheatre.aspx ) with regular performances to follow Wednesday to Sunday, March 28 to April 13 at 7:30 p.m. During this time, matinees will be performed April 3 and 10 at 11:30 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays throughout April at 2 p.m.
Adult ticket prices range from $15 – $35 depending on seat and a flat rate $15 for students and seniors. EyeGO (http://www.eyego.org/About.html) tickets will be offered for $5 and equity members will receive a 10 per cent discount with a valid membership card. Special group rates will also be available upon inquiry. Lyndesfarne asks that all attendees bring a non-perishable food item to performances.
For more information on tickets, performances or to make purchases, call the Seneca Queen Theatre box office at (905) 374-7469 or order your tickets online at www.ltpniagara.com.
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