Cakewalk Chronicles – The play’s the thing – the only thing

Esther Darlington-MacDonald's monthly column about life in small towns of the Interior.

Backstage front stage centre  in A Midsummer Night’s Midterm

Backstage on any theatre production is one continuous rush of adrenalin. You can do it, the brain tells you. You know the lines. My God! You’ve rehearsed them often enough to know not only you own lines but most of those of the other actors. Six weeks of listening, speaking, has settled into that core of what you call and think is yourself. And then, surprise surprise, you’ve got to act! The role, that is. Just as a pianist knows that playing the notes aren’t enough, the actor realizes the character he is acting has to be interpreted. At home, you give it a try. Over and over again. Various approaches. Our pet canine, Tanner, doesn’t like these voice changes. These gestures. Who is this person who has invaded our home? He barks, barks, goes into a kind of frenzy, running up and down the hall.

Anyway, back to backstage. For one thing, it’s dark. And for another, there shouldn’t be a sound from anyone. Our narrow habitat is crowded. Actors sitting or standing, studying scripts with the aid of a tiny flashlight. The tension is a blanket of mutual excitement, with a good splash of apprehension. The prompters sit or stand with the script, reading the lines, indicating it’s time. The moment of truth has arrived. You do your thing – exit – the relief… How can I describe that feeling? I can’t. Then you wait and read for your next cue to go on stage again.

Joris Ekering, a seasoned actor and director with a wide range of experience in the Maritimes and the prairies, calls the whole process a rush of adrenalin. And warns me, that when it’s over, expect exhaustion. A kind of jet lag. He was right on.

Sherman’s illness

On the 13th, two days before opening night, Sherman collapsed. We called the ambulance. Fortunately, ER was open in Ashcroft. Then, 12 hours later, transferred to Kamloops. Released on 15th, with a basketful of puffers and pills. He lunched at home. Collapsed again. Ambulance back to RIH.  Joris, God bless him, driving us, depositing me at the entrance, then picking me up later and taking me back to Ashcroft. Barely enough time to costume, have makeup applied. You have to realize that Joris was doing the lighting and sound for the play, and was indispensable. My part in the play, though small, included several more entries on stage with the “faeries”.

Sherman is still in the hospital and will remain there until doctors determine what the  problem is. His morale is good. He is recovering. He is very grateful for all the community support, teared up a little when I told him how many people have expressed concern, said they will pray for him. Phone calls and offers of help in any way. What a community we have!

Costuming and language

When I saw the beautiful costumes that Anita Ladoski had designed for the faeries, I could have cried. Hugs with a heart full of gratitude. Tiny feathers, flowers, leaves, buds, Anita made us magical. Donna Middleton’s skillful stitchery was no less appreciated. And it wasn’t just the faeries. Jean Burgess’s Puck, or Robin Goodfellow was a superb explosion of feathers, veils, color. With an energy that brought down the house at curtain call. She had a lot of lines to memorize, some of which was the Old English, that frankly, I had a time with. For example, do you know what Barm is? Well, it’s not a farm building. In Shakespeare’s English, it was the froth on the brewing liquor. And Tern? Well that’s not a bird. It’s a grist mill. How language changes over the centuries has always amazed me. I’ve mentioned it before in my columns. Language is continuously changing, growing, – an eternal stream of communication. But to go backward and learn the old and ancient forms is a real challenge. At least for this writer it was.


We use that word so often, and so often tell ourselves how essential it is to make things happen. But I’ll tell you, that team work is the unspoken given in putting on a play. But it is also a given, unspoken, for chairing a meeting or holding an event of any kind. The one thing I learned from being given a part in a play is how absolutely dedicated to seeing the production work teamwork is. There’s neither time nor is there mental energy for anything else. Ego? Forget about it. Self-consciousness? Forget about that. Hurt feelings? Forget about that too. In fact, forget about everything but working with those around you to  make what you are doing a complete success.

Gold Country Geotourism adventures field guide

Another wonderful production is the Gold Country Geotourism Guide. It just came out. It is an absolutely beautiful production! Graphic arts and fine arts at their finest. It’s a fine mix of regional history, photographs of people and landmarks, paintings by regional artists. It’s a joy to read and look through. I can’t think of anything finer to bring public attention to our incredible country of mesas, meadows, rivers and historical data. A great gift for Christmas.

It’s the little dramas

The night was dark and a chilly wind was blowing from the west. I arrived at the Community Hall early. No car around but mine. But in front of the building a young girl stood plucking guitar strings.  The hall doors were still locked. She lived some miles from town but is attending high school here.  She had joined the cast of Midsummer’s Night Mid Term late, and had a considerable role to learn as one of the students. She’s been standing at the hall frontage for some time. Confessed she was chilled. We went to a cafe and she drank a mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, had a light supper of soup and a sandwich, and thanked me several times. In the cafe, she told me her last name. It was a name I knew from my time some years back working for the Cook’s Ferry Band. She said it was the last native Thompson name at Cook’s Ferry. Pronounced it for me. A soft sound at the end, spoken from the roof of your mouth. Allison Yamelst. Isn’t that a lovely name?

Esther Darlington-MacDonald

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