The butterfly dances again

Tara Bradbury
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Lisa Hurd remounting successful play about aging and loss

After a successful short run in St. John’s and 16 shows on the mainland earlier this fall,
St. John’s actor Lisa Hurd is remounting her one-woman show about aging and loss, by popular request.

St. John’s actor Lisa Hurd will remount Aviva Ravel’s play “Dance Like a Butterfly” at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre Friday. A one-woman show, the play deals with the emotions experienced by elderly people when they realize they must give up their independence. — File photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

“Dance Like a Butterfly,” by award-winning Montreal playwright Aviva Ravel, is Hurd’s signature piece — although she’s known for her work in various theatre productions, she’s been playing the role of Tillie Rheinblatt  in the play for the past 16 years. Her productions have mainly been for seniors groups, health-care workers, nursing and medical schools and high schools, and the three-show run at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in early September was the first public production of the piece in a long time.

Hurd was hand-picked by Ravel to play Tillie. “Dance Like a Butterfly” sees Tillie, 85 and in a wheelchair, about to be discharged from hospital, after spending months there recuperating from breaking her hip multiple times. A widow with no children, her niece arrives and tells her she’s found her a lovely private nursing home, since she’s no longer able to care for herself.

“She’s always been so independent; she’s had quite a rich, raunchy life, really, and it never occurred to her that this day would come,” Hurd told The Telegram about Tillie when she staged the show in September. “What she’s doing is basically sharing to the audience what she felt and how she felt about her niece pushing her into a home when she felt perfectly capable of living on her own. She also shares quite a bit of her life.”

Though a serious subject, Tillie is a comical character, with caustic wit and a desire to laugh at herself.

Hurd — who, in recent years, has taken to using a wheelchair herself — said each phase of her life has brought her more understanding about Tillie and her situation.

Hurd said as a result of her recent tour of the Maritimes and Ontario, she has received a number of bookings for the new year.

“Dance Like a Butterfly” will run at the Barbara Barrett Theatre again this Friday, for two shows only: a 2 p.m. pay-what-you-can matinée and an 8 p.m. performance ($22). Tickets are available at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900 and online at



Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre

Geographic location: Montreal, Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Ken O'Brien
    November 19, 2013 - 11:02

    Having seen this play performed by Lisa Hurd, I can recommend it. She does a wonderful job bringing Tillie to life. The play is a pause for thought - to think about people who are entering the latter phases of life, and who have hopes and desires just like always, but also rich memories. Change such as this can be jarring. People who are losing independence need to be feel that their fears are being heard.