Welcome to this very first issue of Hudson Village Theatre’s newsletter.
Heralding yet another exciting winter season in the continuing success story that is HVT housed in a former busy train station that over the years has been transformed into one of the most vibrant and successful theatres in all of Quebec and environs. First launched under a tent by Hudsonite Heather Markgraf-Lowe and which, for the past 25 years, has been thrilling audiences with spectacular and critically-acclaimed productions running the full spectrum from comedy to drama to musicals to film and opera. And just about everything in between!
Let It Snow…White
Including, beginning in mid-December and always eagerly awaited for the past decade, staging Quebec’s only Annual Holiday Pantomime for more than one or two shows and now a firm favourite festive tradition for families, friends, and performers from far and wide. Who love to laugh out loud, boo the baddies and hail the heros and heroines, while being transported to a magical world in which love invariably conquers all. And in which everyone – except perhaps the baddiest baddies – will live happily
Of course, as with any panto – developed partly from the 16th century commedia dell’arte of Italy and other European and British stage traditions including Music Hall and Vaudeville – there’s always a lot of hilarious oddball shenanigans going on in such productions. Men playing women, for example. Women playing men. Bad puns. In fact, the punnier the better. Exuberant dancing and singing. And a whole raft of zany happenings with a cast of crazy characters and costumes that simply boggle the mind!
This time around, from December 14 to January 6, HVT showcases in a World Premiere, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in a truly original production written and directed by local resident, John Sheridan, who is certainly no stranger to HVT and who gives a whole new twist to this classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale which also happened to be Walt Disney’s first animated feature way back in 1937.
In essence, it is the tale of a dastardly wicked queen who is jealous of Snow White’s beauty and commands the murder of her innocent stepdaughter only to later discover that she is still alive and well while hiding in a cottage with seven friendly little miners. And I do mean little for they are dwarves after all. Named, this time around Tiny, Forgetful, Peachy, Gassy, Sweaty, Seven and their leader Bossy.
Sat in on an action-packed rehearsal recently with cast and crew members from throughout the region aged from 7 to 70 and my first question to John was a snow-brainer. Why Snow White?
“Because with some background in clown, I really wanted a group of them in my story,” laughed John who has been doing theatre on and off for 30 years and whose first introduction to HVT was when now new Artistic Director, Dean Patrick Fleming, organized an improv fundraiser with Montreal actors at HVT in 2001. “I knew how fun it is to have a team of clowns in a show and what better than a bunch of dwarves! That plus, the Evil Queen is such a great panto villain. I also wanted a story that had strong characters for the actors to play. And finally, I really like the story of Snow White.”
Added John, “I think, if told properly, it is an excellent study on how we all perceive beauty. You have this great contrast in the story between the Queen and Snow White. Both are beautiful but the Queen is vain, and her fear of losing her beauty drives her to do unspeakable things. On the other hand, there is Snow White. Yes, she is physically beautiful but her real beauty comes from within. She is caring and empathetic to a fault. She is honest, grateful and completely open to love. I feel it could be very relevant given the current political climate and how women are often portrayed in film and television.”
Thanks For The (Panto) Memories
Meanwhile, permit me to mention that I have been in four HVT pantos to date. I know what goes into staging such a production, however it is always laugh-filled community theatre and one that families can participate in and enjoy. A sentiment definitely echoed by James Berryman who will be playing one of the two princes in Snow White, and who has recently returned to St. Lazare following a few years in Montreal.
Says James, now 33, who as a youngster watched pantos in England and who has been acting with The Lakeshore Players for the past several years, “There is nothing like a panto. The people, the atmosphere, the energy, it’s all very overwhelming and exciting. I’m laughing at every rehearsal even though I know the scenario and the script. I have always found that with panto, you get out of it what you put in and I cannot stress too much how panto really makes for a friendly and fun community.”
The dates are from December 14 to January 6 with matinée performances on certain days. And please do remember to boo and cheer to your heart’s content. The cast and crew will love you for it. And I can assure you that you too will feel a whole lot better for it when you leave HVT.
New Dean At HVT
Meanwhile, sure to be in the audience for at least one if not more of the panto shows will be HVT’s new Artistic Director, Dean Patrick Fleming, appointed this September following the departure of Andrea Romaldi, who has stepped away to focus on her full time job at the National Theatre School.
Says Dean, perhaps best known for his decade-long tenure as Artistic and Executive Director at Geordie Theatre in Montreal, “In a way, coming back to Hudson is like coming home. For a little over 20 years ago, I was a young actor/director a few years out of theatre school and Heather Markgraf who founded HVT called to give me the good news that she was offering me a part in a show at the relatively new Hudson Village Theatre.”
Adds Dean, who directed two plays at HVT recently, the critically-acclaimed ‘Art’ in August and Jonas and Barry last summer and who has brought over 50 productions to life as a director, performs as an actor on stage and screen, has taught at Concordia University, ASM Performing Arts, and continues to teach at the National Theatre School of Canada, “That was back in the days of the tent. And every time I’ve come to work in Hudson, I’m amazed how much the theatre continues to grow. I’m thrilled that I’ve been offered the chance to get to know HVT and its growing community in a new and different way. I look forward to creating theatre that not only makes you laugh and cry but makes you want to talk about what you’ve just seen. I’ve spent my life exploring how to tell stories and I’m excited to come and tell some great ones to audiences in Hudson.”
Gino Durante and Friends Comedy
Come February 2, comedy will take center stage with Gino Durante and Friends making their first visit to HVT following smash-hit shows in Toronto, Ottawa and Cornwall. With his stunning comedic timing, physicality, expressions, and observational humour, Laval resident Gino – who is a graduate of the Dawson Theatre Program where he polished his skills as an actor – is a firm fan favourite on the stand up comedy circuit in Montreal and sure to be in Hudson as well!
In closing, delighted to report that HVT’s recent Fundraising Gala celebrating its 26th season, with Michel Poirier as Honourary Gala Chairman and staged at Hudson’s Whitlock Golf & Country Club on October 20, was a smash hit on all counts. Despite the totally unexpected power outage for part of the evening while raising some $80,000 for the theatre. Proving once again that regardless… the show goes on!
Says HVT’s Executive Director, Kalina Skulska, “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to extend sincere thanks to all the guests, patrons, sponsors, and those who so generously donated over the year, as well as to all the volunteers who have played such an important role throughout 2018. Bravo to one and all!”
From The Stage to The Page by James Parry