Live Bait presents the first Maritime production of Harvest by Ken Cameron- July, 2010
A very funny play is making its way across the country, winning awards and accolades along the way. Harvest, the fast paced bittersweet tale of an older couple who retires from farming and rents their old farmhouse to what they think is a ‘nice young man’, is having its premiere in the Maritimes at the Live Bait Theater this month.
“The play has quite the buzz around it” says director Karen Valanne, (artistic director of Live Bait), saying that the play has a reputation for being ‘sold out’ within the first few nights. Described by the Calgary Herald as ‘comic gold’, this is the first full production of Harvest in the Maritimes.
The two main characters, Charlotte and Alan, are based on Ken Cameron’s parents and the story comes from a real experience. When the retired couple decides to retire and move to a condo, they find it hard to sell their family home so they rent it to a man who seems too good to be true. The couple soon becomes suspicious when the young man pays the rent in cash and seems to have no furniture, leading them into an unexpected adventure in their ‘golden’ years.
A consummate playwright with more than fifteen plays under his belt, Cameron has found that this very personal tale told in a story telling manner has a universal draw. Cameron has said that it was when he began to write about personal experiences his plays “moved to a different level and touched audiences in a different way”. “The dialogue is very natural, very funny and very real”, says Valanne, who is has found the play an exciting challenge.
Although the play is plot driven, because the audience does want to find out what happens, the heart of the tale is the strength and love that exist in this long marriage.
“In many ways this is a love story; it is about these two people, their history, in a very recognizable marriage”, says Valanne, “They have been together for 42 years so they have the love and affection, and the bickering and the edges” that comes out in their dialogue.
Actor David Hughes, who plays Alan as well as many other characters in Harvest, says, “The playwright obviously adores his own parents, whose story it is, and that is what comes across”.
Mauralea Austin, who plays his wife, agrees, she says it is due to Ken Cameron’s writing that the play is so attractive to the audience. “It is very universal in the way that he has opened it up, and we all can recognize bits of ourselves or our parents or family members. That is a sign of really good writing; it is specific and personal but it has universal appeal”.
The play begins with the actors telling the audience that they want to tell them a story, and then takes off on a wild trip with the actors taking turns playing the twelve other characters, sometimes in the same scene, interrupting and correcting each other, while they tell the tale.
Director Valanne, says, “The actors pick up on someone’s voice or their accent or their movement, so they inhabit these characters as they tell us this story. They step in and out of the story, and they will address the audience and then they will step back into the scene, it is really fun and a real acting challenge”.
David says that as soon as he read the script, “I thought, oh yeah, this is going to be a lot of work, but a lot of fun to do, jumping around from character to character and scene to scene. And there is a lot of variety because it is not just two people sitting in the living room and talking for an hour and a half. The scenes move around from outside in the county to inside the house, to a Tim Horton’s coffee shop, and all over the place”.
Mauralea says she is proud of Karen’s directing choices, in which the story is told with a very limited amount of sets, props and costumes. “I think that Karen is taking a very brave approach…how transformative, how much magic can we create just by physicality and vocal work? So we are pushing that and pushing that, what can we dispense with and still keep the illusion alive. We don’t have any crutches, no safety nets; we are flying by the seat of the pants”!
Karen says that Ken Cameron has created a play that can be shifted from one community to another because he allows the theater groups working on it to adjust the place names to their own community. “It gives each community a sense of personal investment in the play” says Mauralea, saying that this production is set specifically in and around Sackville.
“Ken Cameron has been very generous to the actors”, says Karen, “There are not a lot stage directions, and like Ken said to me in the most recent email,‘ There are no wrong choices’ He has deliberately left it wide open for the actors to interpret how they want to make those transitions between characters and scenes. But the dialogue is so important and he paints such a clear picture from the way these people speak that it does make our job easier’.
Karen says that sometimes the two actors will trade off playing the same character in the same scene. Mauralea’s character, Charlotte, often interrupts Alan’s character, Alan, with her corrections and the attitude’ Oh you are taking too long, let me tell the people how it went’. David and Mauralea play all the characters in the play, whether it is an insurance agent or Church lady, in order to tell the story in their own way.
Says David, “We have to get it straight so that we are both thinking the same way , we both want to play the same real estate agent without actually being a strict imitation of each other “ .Mauralea says that playing the same character that your co-actor is playing can be challenging, “In this play both actors will take on the same character in the same scene , and that adds a whole other layer, because now we have to not just embody another character , but we also have to embody another character that the other actor partner is also embodying, and yet we are giving our individual spin on it. It is great, a real rollercoaster ride.”
Atlantic Canadian Premiere of Ken Cameron’s HARVEST
Main Stage Production
Directed by Karen Valanne
Lighting – Paul Del Motte
Stage Manager – Jennifer Shaw
Actors – Mauralea Austin and David Hughes
Where – Live Bait Theater – 87 Main Street, Sackville, N.B.
When – August 12- 15 and 17 – 22 at 8 PM
Saturday Matinees – August 14 and 21 at 2 PM
Tickets- Adults – $25.00
Seniors/Students – $22.00
Matinees – $10.00