No one throws a party like Kingston, and what a party it was!
The story began back in May, when the Event idea was first being considered. Merilyn Simonds was visiting, and as chance would have it she was also the Project Coordinator of the much expanded Kingston WritersFest. (www.kingstonwritersfest.ca). There had been a small festival for the past three years, but Kingston—always a great book town, as well as one that understands the importance of community action – felt it was ready for much more.
We talked about the YOTF Events, and Merilyn grasped the concept right away. In a trice she has managed to interest the formidable Jim Garrard, veteran founder and mover and shaker of Theatre Pas Muraille, along with Paul Thompson, back in the sixties and seventies – he was willing to direct the actors, and to read Adam One himself. Next came musical director Andy Rush of Open Voices Choir, and designer Kate Daley, and Kingston was up and running. I’d get excited emails from Merilyn – “Wait’ll you see!” “You won’t believe it!” “It’s a surprise!”
Boy, was it ever! The pictures in the Picture Gallery – it’s the previous blog – tell the story. Kate Daley had given the Gardeners a basic costume template, and the singers had made their own – clothing out of garments cut apart and tied onto parts of other garments, shoes of cardboard and duct tape, hats of cardboard and woven newspaper, stitched together with twisted plastic-bag strips, and here and there a plastic-bag bow – they were fantastic! The happy one beside the shoes is Andy Rush. Some of them had Gardener slates with slogans around their necks, others were practicing with their broom-handle banners, and already – backstage – they were having more fun than a barrel of butternut squash. They are: Tim Aylesworth, Sherry Aylesworth, Sarah Booth, Nickie Chapman, Eric Ferguson, Kate Gurnham, Jan Le Clair, Kathy Lee, Stephanie Lind, Ken Morin, Mitch Mullings, Yazdan Rabadi, Nicholas Renaud, John Rosseel, Helen Rutledge, Ken Rutledge, Leslie Saunders,Maggie Sutherland, Mary Sutherland, Shirley Wildenbeest.
The three actors were very elegant in outfits that Katy had made for them. Jim Garrard as Adam One looked like a Samurai warrior, sort of, and Krista Garrett as Toby had three outfits – her Gardener robe and hat, very Japanese-postcard, her SecretBurgers T-shirt with Scott Thornley’s zippered-smile design, and her pink robe (the inside of the Gardener one) for her AnooYoo Spa scenes. Michelle Girourard was waifish in her Gardener outfit, but she had a glittery feathered surprise in store for her later Scales &Tails scenes.
After the audience was seated in the stunningly-renovated Grand Theatre – I remember it when it was anti-Grand – we gathered in the foyer like a Pied Piper assemblage. After Merilyn’s introduction, we entered in procession with our broom banners and came down the darkened aisle singing the first hymn. Huge vases of Phragmites decorated the stage, and the microphone stands were enhanced with dried corn plants. This was a visually sumptuous Event – a feeling captured pictures of the group of singers and the full chorus, by Charles Earl. (Watch for his name in the bottom corner. Hint: his pictures are better than the ones from my camera.)
Andy Rush’s Gardener singers and musicians were ecstatically joyful to the point of blissout; in contrast, Jim Garrard gave a somber interpretation of Adam One – he obviously knew a few dark truths that his followers did not, but was bent on keeping them to himself as long as possible. (Maybe he’d read the whole book!) Krista Garrett’s Toby was tight with strain, melting at the end; and Michelle Girouard’s Ren managed to be both hardened and childlike at the same time. The moment when Toby hugs Ren in her ruined feathers choked up quite a few, I’m told.
Then we had a big love-in, onstage and with the audience, then back in the foyer. There’s me — in the wonderful cardboard-and-woven-paper hat – with designer Katy Daley, who made it for me, and also with Melanie Dugan, who worked with me long ago and who formed half of the ace WritersFest publicity team; and me again with Merilyn, both of us tired but high as kites. Were we ever pleased!