Isle aux Morts en­ter­tain­ment con­tin­ues to im­press

The­atre Fes­ti­val at­tracts ta­lent lo­cally and from across New­found­land

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL - BY ROSALYN ROY THE GULF NEWS Rosalyn.roy@gulfnews.ca Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

ISLE AUX MORTS, NL – Af­ter a five-year ab­sence from the stage, the leg­end of Cana­dian hero­ine Ann Har­vey is once again part of the Isle aux Morts The­atre Fes­ti­val.

The story of how the lo­cal teenager, her fa­ther, younger brother, and New­found­land dog res­cued 163 sur­vivors of the ship­wrecked Des­patch in July 1828 is com­monly known, but in “Song of the Mer­maid” the his­toric tale is told from a dif­fer­ent point of view.

“I tell it from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive be­cause I’m an out­sider,” said play­wright Jamie Skid­more, who orig­i­nally hails from On­tario and is a pro­fes­sor at Memo­rial Univer­sity.

This time the story is told by one of the Des­patch’s crew, who sur­vives the wreck and re­turns home, where he re­counts de­tails of the voy­age and Ann’s hero­ism to his fam­ily.

“There’s a lot of re­search,” said Skid­more, who worked closely with res­i­dents of Isle aux Morts to write the play. Skid­more pored over univer­sity ar­chives, lis­tened to oral his­tory, and pulled in­for­ma­tion from on­line re­sources.

“One of the most use­ful pieces of in­for­ma­tion that we found was the fact that the cap­tain of the ship died in the jolly boat.”

Dur­ing a work­shop ses­sion with the com­mu­nity, some­one asked why the cap­tain didn’t just go down with the ship as is ex­pected – that ques­tion helped shape the play’s nar­ra­tive. While writ­ing the play, Skid­more was well aware of how im­por­tant the tale is Isle aux Morts.

“The minute de­tails aren’t there, so you have to take cre­ative li­cense,” he said. “That’s why I worked with the com­mu­nity, to de­velop that, to make sure I didn’t take artis­tic li­cense that was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the com­mu­nity. It’s their story that I tell.”

For Kristin LeFrense, the story car­ries per­sonal weight. Her fam­ily de­scends from the Har­vey line, and the re­cent Gren­fell grad­u­ate ad­mits that con­nec­tion is part of what drew her to au­di­tion for the role.

“It’s just a home­town story so ev­ery­one has a pretty close con­nec­tion to it,” said LeFrense, who also wanted to try some­thing new and out of her usual com­fort zone – this is her first big role other than a school play sev­eral years pre­vi­ously. It helped that LeFrense shares a few traits with her fa­mous an­ces­tor, such as sin­cer­ity and kind­ness.

“I love help­ing oth­ers,” she said.

Di­rec­tor Kevin Wool­ridge hails from Goulds and has been in the­atre for over 20 years. He has just fin­ished his masters at York Univer­sity and was re­cruited by Skid­more to help pull off this year’s pro­duc­tion.

“We were re­ally lucky in the way it panned out, that ev­ery­body that came on board – all from dif­fer­ent lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence –all gelled to­gether re­ally well,” said Wool­ridge of the open au­di­tion process. “It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to work with them.”

In ad­di­tion to di­rect­ing du­ties, Wool­ridge is launch­ing on a one-man show called All The Birds in Their Bird Houses. That show will tour Cow Head, Cor­ner Brook, Gan­der, Mil­ton and Ge­orge’s Brook. Al­though his own writ­ing is more con­tem­po­rary, Wool­ridge very much en­joys the Ann Har­vey story.

“It’s very im­por­tant to cel­e­brate our he­roes,” said Wool­ridge. “I think a hero is just some­one who is or­di­nary and does what has to be done. And that’s ex­actly what she and her fam­ily did.”

ROSALYN ROY/THE GULF NEWS

Isle aux Morts na­tive Kristin LeFrense, who por­trays Ann Har­vey in “Song of the Mer­maid”, with di­rec­tor and the­atre vet­eran Kevin Wool­ridge.

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