It's all about The Birds and the Bees as Miracle Theatre gathers together professionals from across the country to present a farcical rural comedy at ArtSpace, above Books & Co., from Feb. 12 to March 4.
Producer Anne Laughlin and director Ted Price have staged their annual fundraiser to not only bring some light-hearted entertainment to Prince George audiences but to grow the Children of Prince George Fund, which is under the trusteeship of the Prince George Community Foundation. The new endowment fund, that provides a sustainable revenue stream that is donated to local charities, was established last year with more than $84,000 in the coffers and that amount will continue to grow as The Birds and the Bees is supported by the community.
Frances Flanagan takes on the role of Gail, the beekeeper who had her heart broken about 20 years before. Things get a little complicated when her not-so-little bird returns to the nest. Sarah, Gail's almost-40-year-old daughter, comes home to figure things out after her marriage breaks down. In the meantime, Gail's interest in her neighbour changes from the farmer who rents her fields to something completely different.
As Gail's bees start to die, university student Ben comes along to try to discover the problem but finds Sarah might be a more interesting study.
When Flanagan heard proceeds of the production go to charity, she had an immediate reaction.
"Sign me up," she said. "It's my heart. This production makes me feel like I'm going home. It's why we're doing theatre. We're here to let people see the human condition and give back and so we are."
Flanagan, who lives in Vancouver, has been part of Canada's film, television and stage scene since she began her career in 1975 and made her 1982 film debut in A Piano for Mrs. Cimino, starring Bette Davis. Flanagan began her stage career at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, is the founder of Workshops in the Performing Arts, and is a longtime board member for Women in Film and TV.
Flanagan has a long list of film and television credits, including The Accused, Backfire and The Hidden Room as well as appearances on CBC, ABC, NBC, FOX, MGM, Alliance and Disney. Fans of the ever-growing cache of Hallmark movies will recognize Flanagan from her appearances including those in A Dash of Love, The Story of Us, Love in Paradise and Bottled with Love.
The Birds and the Bees is Flanagan's first Prince George appearance.
"It's a beautiful play," she said. "It should make you laugh and it should make you cry. As Ted (Price) says it's a rural farce but it's also poignant. This play is gorgeous and it's a lovely role for a woman of my age - and I'm not afraid of winter and the sun shines here in Prince George all the time and the people are lovely."
To research her role, Flanagan, who admits she is a bit of a method actor, visited beekeepers to gather some insight into the process and then it was time to take a look at the emotional side of the character.
"Gail has been devoid of love for the past 20 years - she's really cut herself off from allowing anybody to get too close to her because she got her heart broken so she's really protected herself," Flanagan said.
It's at that point where Gail sees her daughter Sarah return home.
"You have two very complicated women coming together after 20 years," Flanagan said. "And then you've got the boys. There's my neighbour, who's an old friend who rents my fields. We've both suffered heartbreak, we fight, we're fiery and then there's the virgin boy who comes to study my bees and hilarity ensues."
Flanagan said she feels fortunate to have come to Prince George to be part of the production.
"Ted is a remarkable director," Flanagan said. "You are so lucky to have him. I've worked with a lot of people and he's so insightful. This is a farce so it's a fast-paced comedy but it's also tender and we deal with the theme of connection, the randomness of life and chaos, the fact that life is unexpected and you just have to let things happen."
The Birds and the Bees by playwright Mark Crawford has become the most produced Canadian play during the last two years.
The show is presented each night at ArtSpace at 8 p.m. except for Mondays. On Sundays there is a matinee at 2 p.m. and then an evening performance at 8 p.m. Tickets are at Books & Co., 1685 Third Ave. or by calling 250-563-6637.