Antigonish’s own Mary-Colin Chisholm makes a long awaited return to the Bauer Theatre stage with this year’s Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre’s production The Goodnight Bird.
With the tag-line, “a dark comedy about old love and new courage,” the Colleen Murphy written play is being directed by Festival Antigonish artistic director Andrea Boyd and stars, alongside Chisholm, Wally MacKinnon and Henricus ‘Henry’ Gielis; both of whom are also appearing in Ben Hur this summer.
The play opens Aug. 7 and runs until Aug. 23.
“This is a return to ‘home’ for Mary-Colin who also starred in the very first season of Festival Antigonish where she wrote sketches for, and acted in, It’s the Berries!, and also acted in Carol Sinclair’s Idyll Gossip,” a festival release reads.
Chisholm noted she has been back on occasions doing “second stage” plays and directing, adding, “I received my directing chops at the Bauer.”
She plays Lily in the play who is a retired teacher married to MacKinnon’s character Morgan.
“Her husband has had a heart attack so they’re looking at the next stage of their lives and, possibly, going to Siberia,” Chisholm said.
“She is very organized and strong willed and her life gets turned upside down by a visitor. For her and her husband, their whole lives get turned upside down and they have to question how they’ve been living for the last 40 years.
“It’s a very funny play but parts of it are strange, almost surreal and, at times, quite emotionally deep.”
Chisholm talked about relating to different aspects of her character.
“Definitely aspects of myself and of many people I’ve known,” she said. “I think everyone will recognize her as someone in their life within the first few minutes; but then where she goes with that is the surprise, I think.”
Chisholm said the story is, almost, like a “dream.”
“It has a slightly wacky dream-like quality to it,” she said.
It may be surprising to hear for some that she and MacKinnon, despite both being acclaimed actors with a long-list of credits in both film and stage, have never worked together until now.
“I’ve known Wally forever, so I’ve always wanted to work with him; and now I’m not only going to be working with him and I’m married to him … it’s like a bonus,” Chisholm said with a chuckle.
“He is fantastic on and off stage. And people are going to have fun seeing Wally and Henry from Ben-Hur to The Goodnight Bird.”
Boyd said she is “thrilled” to be working with such a talented and experienced cast.
“With actors who are on the very top of their game; who are experienced, who get it,” Boyd said. “We talk about the play on multiple levels and the emotional depth that Mary-Colin and Wally bring to these characters … it’s a very generous gift to us all.”
She talked further about working with an actor, veteran or newcomer, for the first time and how it’s “key” to personal development.
“It’s very important,” she said.
“We love working with some of the same artists, of course. You develop a relationship, a short-hand, ways of working, trust; so there is a, kind of, comfort in that. But working with new actors, you are always learning new ways of communicating; you are seeing new ways of approaching a character.
“As a director, I respect the process of an actor and then we bring a vision together, rather than try and impose a process on an actor. It’s always a challenge working with artists at the top of their game, you have to go in the room ready for that.”
The Goodnight Bird joins Ben-Hur and A Brimful of Asha in Festival Antigonish’s main stage repertoire and the productions will soon be joined by Honky Tonk Blue: the night Patsy met Hank, which opens Aug. 10.
The family stage production is If You Could Wear My Sneakers, which opened July 23, and then there is the Theatre on the Town plays which are new to Festival Antigonish this summer.
Chisholm talked about the Antigonish audience as being “sophisticated” because not only do they have the opportunity to experience this variety each summer, they’re also treated to Theatre Antigonish productions in the fall and winter seasons at the Bauer.
“The theatre audience here is well read,” she said.
“An audience likes plays you can ponder on a long time after you leave and we all love a good, well-done comedy.”
She talked more about the variety being offered this summer.
“It’s like going to a salad bar and it’s not all potato salad; it has everything from around the world,” she said. “I think it’s really providing a range.”
The release notes; “the play contains mature themes and strong language, and is intended for an adult audience.
“The show begins with a pay-what-you-can preview on Aug 7, and opens officially on Aug.8.
Tickets are available online and at the Bauer Theatre box office. A complete schedule and show details can be found online at festivalantigonish.com or by calling 902-867-3333.”
There is also a ‘meet the playwright’ night coming up Aug. 9.
“With Colleen Murphy on Aug. 9 at 3 p.m., at Red Sky Gallery on Main Street. Colleen will read from a selection of her works, and take questions from audience members. Admission to this event is free,” the release reads.