by Lorraine Payette and Deborah Dunleavy
(Gananoque, Ontario) Get ready for a magical trip back through time to the Swing Era of the 1940’s. Dunleavy’s warmly nostalgic one-woman musical features classics by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and other great swing composers. “At The Canoe Club Dance” opens on November 8, 8:00 pm, at the Ourtown Theatre, 365 William Street South in Gananoque, and runs for three performances.
The story begins with Bea Tompkins settling into her new home – the Riverside Estates, a retirement home nestled on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. While she doesn’t always remember what she had for breakfast she recalls vividly her time as the singer for a swing band at the Canoe Club Dance back in the 1940’s.
Bea time travels. Sometimes she’s a child riding on the Suzie Push train and other times she’s a teenager going to the Delaney Cinema. And every Thursday night Bea is up there singing at the Canoe Club Dance. The floorboards creak and the walls vibrate to the songs of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin and the popular tunes of the war years and earlier. In the course of the play we meet Bea’s family, her friends and the folks about town, and we meet Jimmy Wilson, the love of her life.
While storyteller-in-residence at the Arthur Child Heritage Museum, Dunleavy interviewed several seniors in Gananoque. She quickly collected more than 30 hours of materials from the remarkable seniors who remembered area life before 1945, and were more than happy to share their memories with future generations.
“The seniors told me amazing stories about how a test pilot crashed his plane on Blue Mountain, how they drank the river water, and how they chewed paving tar like bubble gum,” says Dunleavy. “There were stories about going to the Delaney Cinema, learning to swim, riding an old train called the Suzie Push and taking the steamships to Kingston. Many people recalled fondly the Thursday night dances at the Canoe Club.”
In 2012, the Ontario Arts Council Word of Mouth program awarded her a grant to write “At the Canoe Club Dance”, and this year the Town of Gananoque awarded her another grant to bring the play to life on the stage for November, 2013.
“This is my gift back to the people of Gananoque,” says Dunleavy. “In creating the play I borrowed from the atmosphere of truth to create a fictitious scenario.” Dunleavy also admits that she has interwoven some personal aspects. “Many of the songs were sung by my mother when I was growing up. And my father was in the Second World War, landing on Juno Beach on June 6 1944. In the play my character Bea is in love with Jimmy who goes overseas.”
As an acclaimed international performer with over 30 years of experience as a touring singer, musician, and storyteller Dunleavy is thrilled to be coming back to her first love – theatre.
The time is almost here for this amazing show. “At the Canoe Club Dance” plays at the Dreams in Motion/Ourtown Theatre, 365 William Street South in Gananoque from November 8 – 10. Show times are 8:00 pm on the 8th and 9th, with a matinee on the 10th at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $20 each, cash only, with open seating. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 613-382-6700. It is suggested that you buy early to avoid disappointment.