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Dramatic, musical show about Confederation touches home for creator

Performers in “What Was Needed Most” get a standing ovation at their premiere show at the Old Church in Admiral’s Cove last weekend.
Performers in “What Was Needed Most” get a standing ovation at their premiere show at the Old Church in Admiral’s Cove last weekend. - Submitted

Robert Chafe’s ‘What Was Needed Most’ touring province

It started as an idea to write a dramatic piece about local people’s experiences during the time of Confederation.

But for creator Robert Chafe, it not only ended up taking a new direction, but became a personal journey and a real eye-opener about what his own family went through at the time.

“I’m really proud of what it’s turned into,” said Chafe, an author, actor and award-winning playwright.

Featuring stunning monologues written and performed by Chafe, “What Was Needed Most” tells the story of this province’s transition to Confederation and reflects upon the changing cultural landscape from the perspective of children at the time.

After a successful premiere weekend in Admiral’s Cove and Brigus last weekend, the show will continue its tour throughout the province this month, with stops in several communities.

Chafe — also known for his work in “Artistic Fraud” — came up with the idea of focusing on this province’s shift during Confederation when members of the Tuckamore Festival approached him about writing something to commemorate Canada 150.

Initially thinking he would write true-story accounts from interviews with young veterans and politically active adults of Newfoundland at the time, he discovered there wasn’t many from that generation left who could recollect details.

“Memories had shifted and faded,” Chafe said.

“The clear memories were from those who were kids at the time — around 10 years old, not old enough to vote and with no political opinion at the time, but clear memories of the lifestyle at the time.

“It was about them looking at their parents, what they had to do to support their family. They were mystified at hard work of their generation and they had an incredible sense of gratefulness of what their parents were able to achieve. It really moved me.”

As Chafe spoke to several people across the province, he realized his own parents could add to the stories.

“Everyone I spoke to, I was interrupting them, saying, ‘Oh yeah, my Dad was like that.’ So, I thought why not speak to my own parents,” he said.

“It really did open a new dialogue with my parents. There was so much I found out about my family as a result of creating the show.

“I never predicted (going in that direction). It turned into a really personal show.”

He said the stories resonate with people who see the show.

“It’s opening up a little part of the past for people, not just about their families, but their connections with their families,” he said. “People tell me it’s made them want to go home and call their families.”

While it’s not a typical Christmas show, Chafe said it delivers messages about the its true meaning.

“It’s about family and holding people to you dear, and remembering your lost loved ones,” he said. “So, in a way, it’s kind of a beautiful Christmas show.”

To add to the beauty of it, he said, the show is framed by new musical pieces from Newfoundland and Labrador composers Bekah Simms, Aiden Hartery and Duane Andrews. The works are performed by Duo Concertante (Nancy Dahn, violin; Timothy Steeves, piano) and emerging cellist Amy Collyer-Holmes.

The next show is set for 8 p.m. today in Milton at the New Curtain Theatre.

The remaining shows are Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the D.F. Cook Recital Hall in St. John’s; Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista; Thursday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. at the Grenfell Theatre in Corner Brook; Friday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m. at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre; and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

 

rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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