Three years ago we were planning a road trip to the eastern US when Stan saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Wow— an internationally recognized theatre festival in one of our favorite towns in the whole world. Well, since we would be within a couple of hundred miles anyway, we decided to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend.
That year we saw an amazing production of Shaw's "Misalliance" that involved the heroine making an entrance by climbing down a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in an aviator's outfit (a scene I later used in A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary
to introduce Antony's actress sister.)
Last year we were again driving eastward to attend the Jane Austen Society of North America AGM in Minneapolis which got us within striking range once more of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This time, knowing how truly exceptional the productions were we booked tickets for: "Major Barbara," "Lady Windermere's Fan," and "Our Betters." Well, after all, what were the odds that we'd ever get back again?
But here we are— en route again to the JASNA AGM, this year in Montreal, and stopping in lovely, lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake. This time to see a slate of five plays. Well, after all, we might not get back again— but now we know to hope.
But first, a serendipity along the way, We stopped in Detroit to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts
— well worth the visit! Our time was limited so we confined ourselves to the European Medieval and Renaissance art collections, but really needed days to do the DIA justice. And a special bit of fun— Stan was selected "Guest of the Day" at our motel: free parking, free breakfast and a swag bagful of goodies.
Now, to the Shaw Festival. Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell says in her introductory notes that by the time a play is over one should "have been taken down a journey more compelling and magical than you could have imagined. . . As we delight, provoke and entertain, we must always surprise." Ah, I thought, what a perfect goal for a novelist— exactly what I would love to deliver to my readers.
And, Maxwell asks of her audiences what every writer would love from their readers: "stay open and allow yourself to be carried away."
Certainly we were carried away by today's performance of "The Sea" by English playwright Edward Bond. Set in a small village on the east coast of England in 1907, the eccentric characters kept us laughing even as the plot explored the effect on the community of the drowning of a young man in a storm at sea.
The program quoted a critic who aptly described the play as a mix of "'The Tempest', 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers'."
Ultimately, though, it was Bond's language that sparkled brightest:
"They might as well have an inquest on birth."
"A hero must be afraid of weaker men."
"The universe lives. It teems with life."
"Don't give up hope. The truth is very patient. You'll find it."
"It's the details that make the tragedy."
All that and Afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales:
Tomorrow: J. B. Priestley's "When We Are Married" and Shaw's "The Philanderer." What a combination to see back-to-back. I'll be reporting.
Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.