written by Lorraine Payette, September 3, 2014
Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I’d caress you
And press you to my heart…
– Lilli Marlene (translated by Tommie Connor, 1944)
(Gananoque, ON) World War II was a hard time for everyone involved, but it had a special significance for those who stayed behind, the women who kept the home fires burning. Always waiting, always hoping, always dreaming of the day when they would once again bring the family circle together they did everything they could for their men so far away and for all of those at home as well.
Waiting for the Parade focuses on five of these iconic women from Canadian history – each with her own loved one, each with her own reasons to stay strong, drawn together by fate to create a special friendship only people in such a situation could ever develop. One awaits her sons, another her husband. Two have husbands who have remained at home while the fifth carries the burden of being a German immigrant and daughter of a suspected Nazi sympathizer. Yet each has her own strengths, her own weaknesses, and contributes in her own way to make the interminable war time bearable for herself and the others.
Written by John Murrell, Waiting for the Parade is hailed as a Canadian classic. One of three shows performed in partnership with Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, BC, it continues the tradition of bringing quality theatre to audiences across Canada. The five actresses hail from diverse locations, but work with a chemistry and comfort that would leave us believing they are best friends and always have been.
Two of the actresses will be familiar to local audiences. Deb Drakeford (Janet) was seen recently as Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest, while Anita Wittenberg (Marta) can be remembered for her role as Berta in Boeing! Boeing! Shannon Currie (Catherine), Andrea Houssin (Eve) and Janet Michael (Margaret) round out this cast of women, new to us yet as familiar as our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers could ever be.
Drakeford was cast in a production of Waiting for the Parade in Toronto four years and learned to play the piano specifically to make her character more real. She says she really doesn’t know how to play anything but the pieces she performs on stage, but she plays them beautifully.
“I find it to be a really beautiful and delicate look at the women who were forced to stay home, and each has a very different story to tell about what they had to do just to survive,” said Houssin.
“I think it’s a really important piece of Canadian culture and history,” said Michael. “It’s a cornerstone in playwriting, a Canadian classic that comes out of the 70s. It has a flavour of the 70s, a pastiche, a style that really doesn’t exist that much any more. It’s really important as a piece of Canadian culture because he researched this – it was all based on the lives of actual women in Alberta who went through the war, so every word you’re hearing is really Canadian history.”
“It’s also a very interesting look at what situation can do at bringing together sort of unlikely friends,” said Currie. “These are all very different women who, if times were different, probably wouldn’t interact with each other too much. But because of a forced situation, they’re bound together and need each other in ways that one wouldn’t anticipate without this.”
The play is described as being character driven as opposed to plot driven, giving a chance to see inside the hopes and dreams, the fears, the very souls of these very different women.
“There are a lot of monologues, and my character really only has three scenes where she interacts with others,” said Wittenberg. “She’s a very isolated character. It’s an interesting acting challenge to feel like you’re in a play but at the same time you’re working apart. It’s a wonderful challenge.”
In addition to the waiting for their men and loved ones, the play touches on many aspects of the period – shortages, prejudices, every aspect of society and daily life. It is highly recommended for audiences of all ages.
Waiting for the Parade runs from August 29 – September 20, 2014, at the Springer Theatre, 690 Charles Street South in Gananoque, Ontario. Running time for the play is 2 hours, including intermission. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm (starting the Wednesday after opening night). Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors age 65+, $16 for students. HST is applicable to all ticket prices. Group tickets are available at $26 – $28 each including GST. Women and War – A Panel Discussion will be held free of charge on Sunday, September 14, 1:00 pm at the Firehall Theatre (full details available online at http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com/women-and-war-a-discussion/ ). This show is recommended for people of all ages. For more information, please go to http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-382-7020.