For centuries, humans have connected through stories. Storytelling has always been a way to pass down history and myths and to share our collective experiences. We enjoy hearing the same stories and discovering new details each time we hear or read them. Plays have always offered that for me, I love seeing the story come alive each night on stage and how each time it is something different.
My first experience as an assistant director was working on a brand-new play at Theatre NorthWest, Bemused, written by Scott White and Pete Fenton. We were lucky to have the playwrights join us during the rehearsal period. The story was about an extremely talented couple moving into Cole Porter’s suite at The Waldorf Astoria and it featured a variety of hilariously written characters and hi-jinks – and a skunk! However, the play didn’t start out that way. It began with an idea about angels and evolved from there. It was fascinating to be a part of that process and have a glimpse into the creative process.
This season at TNW, we are honoured to have two playwrights be a part of our artistic team. Tracey Power wrote our next show, Glory, and she is in rehearsals now working on our production as the choreographer. This story is inspired by the real-life women’s hockey team The Preston Rivulettes during the Great Depression. Their winning record is unmatched in women’s hockey to this day. These strong women remind us that women can be exceptional athletes. In fact, one of the women portrayed in Glory, Hilda Ranscombe, was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in real life. She has been credited as one of hockey’s greatest players, yet I didn’t know who she was until reading Glory. These women paved the way for women athletes today. Canadian Olympic hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser even attended the opening night of Glory at Alberta Theatre Project’s production in 2018. I can almost guarantee she was inspired and touched by the story. What also makes this production unique is the swing dance elements used to simulate a hockey game. The actors must also become athletes themselves as a lot of action takes place on the ice. To have Tracey in the room is invaluable and will add a lot of nuances to our production that will be riveting for our audiences. Don’t miss Glory playing on home ice, beginning Feb. 3 and running until Feb. 23.
Our final production of the season is Mom’s the Word, written by a collective of actors who also moonlight as mothers. This play has travelled around the world and has spawned many sequels, including a newly written sequel this year! I am grateful to be working on this show as assistant director with one of the playwrights, Deb Williams, as director. I first met Deb when she was in Bemused and she has appeared on TNW’s stage twice more since then. I could write an entire article on how amazing Deb is; her talent, her comedic timing, and her kindness make her an inspiring artist to work with. Mom’s the Word became an idea way back in 1993 (the 90s were the best). Linda Carson, an artist from Prince George, had this idea to get a group of women together to do a play for the now-defunct Women in View Festival in Vancouver. This group got together every week for a year and discussed what it was like to be a parent. Most of these stories never got written down as they were just sharing experiences. By the time the festival came around, there were no physical scripts but verbal stories of parenting ups and downs. They went onstage and shared these stories with the audience from a place of vulnerability and it was a huge success. The rawness and truthfulness in these stories are what makes Mom’s the Word such a wondrous experience. I love the spectacle of big musicals and dance numbers and amazing effects, but I also love when theatre is stripped down and just speaks straight to us. Mom’s the Word is storytelling at its best and it will make us laugh and cry and connect with one another. Mom’s the Word opens on April 14th and runs until May 4th.
Melissa Glover is an assistant director at Theatre NorthWest.