Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Miracle on 34th Street

In 2014, when the Prairie Players launched an on-stage radio play (It’s a Wonderful Life), I wondered how on earth that might work. Did anyone really want to sit in an audience, listening to actors reading from scripts? Or would we sit in the dark, hearing voices over the speakers and imagining the rest, much like a real 1940’s radio audience would have? Either way, I feared the production might be a bust. 

I worried for nothing. It was fantastic! An engaging story in every way.

So when I heard the group was staging another radio drama for this season, I relaxed. I’m not part of the production, but I sat in on a recent rehearsal so I could tell you about it. Let me assure you, you don’t want to miss it! If you’re not already in the Christmas spirit by then, you will be when you leave. Unless your heart is stone dead.

Directed by Rosa Albanese Rawlings, the play features Peggy Tidsbury as the radio announcer. Rumour has it Peggy basically wrote her own script, working in some clever advertising for our local sponsors. That in itself will keep you laughing.

The rest of this talented cast includes Maggie Davidson as Doris Walker; Fabien de Freitas as Fred Gailey and the postman; Haley L’Heureux as Susan Walker (close your eyes while she speaks, and you’ll swear she’s a real seven-year-old!); Barry Rud as Kris Kringle; and Terry Tully who portrays four characters: Mr. Shellhammer, Dr. Pierce, Judge Harper, and Charles Halloran.
Amber Blume, Rita Carignan, Betty-Jean Checkley, Wayne Loeppky, Fran Myles, Reid Noton, and Tyrone Taylor round out the cast.

One of the things making this play so fun is the excellent piano music provided live on stage by Stephanie Kauffman. By the end of the night, you may have heard snippets of every Christmas song ever written. Stephanie is also the play’s producer—because one job is never enough for that gal!

Based on the 1947 movie of the same name, this play is sure to delight you. It includes something for everyone: a blossoming romance, big business competition, and even court room drama. And most of all, the heartwarming lesson: “faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

While searching little-known trivia about this popular old movie, I learned the rivalry between Macy’s and Gimbel’s department stores was as real as depicted in the film. The two stores, just blocks from each other in New York City, competed fiercely for the same business. One reporter wrote that Macy’s closed for a half-day when the movie premiered so its 12,000 employees could see it first. It was released May 3, which is odd for a Christmas story nowadays.

The play alone will run on November 29 and 30 at 7:30 and tickets cost $15. If you prefer dinner theatre, you can attend on December 1 or 2 for $45. Catered by Café on Prince, those evenings begin with cocktails at 5:30, dinner at 6:30, and the play at 7:30. All events take place at the William Glesby Centre where you can buy your tickets in person or by calling 204-239-4848.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Souls on Display

Today’s the last day for the Student and Member Show on exhibit at the Portage and District Arts Centre. 

I found it nearly impossible to pick favorites, but I’ve narrowed mine to three: Jytte Johnston’s two
Photo by G.Loewen Photography
beautiful stained-glass vases, Gayle Loewen’s inviting “Prairie Pathway” (photo on canvas), and Caleb Hamm’s mesmerizing “Scattered Wampum” (ink and gouache on paper).

If you attended, you no doubt chose different favorites than mine, and that’s what makes art so wonderful.

In her remarks to the opening night crowd, the centre’s Executive Director Margaret Bernhardt-Lowdon spoke about the courage it takes for artists to “put themselves out there.” Their creations are an extension of their very souls, and to put them on display invites comments they may not always be prepared to hear.

As a writer, I could relate. I know how rejection and harsh critique can sting. To date, my three books combined have received over 700 reviews on Amazon—which is great, because more reviews promote more sales; more sales increase the likelihood of a next book. But even though most of those reviews are positive and encouraging, some are downright mean. And because they can post anonymously, reviewers have nothing to lose. This week alone, the following two comments were left by two different people about the same book:

I hated it. Dowdy and uninteresting.

This book was so well written and had so many facets, I couldn’t help but finish it in a day!

You really can’t please everyone. Artists or not, we’re all subject to the criticisms of others—sometimes constructive, often not. How do we deal with it?

Years ago, a wise friend taught me a trick that I used to teach my church drama team and still practice to keep myself grounded. Throughout your day, as you receive both affirming and discouraging words, it’s okay to gather them up and hold them awhile. Like gathering a bouquet of flowers, enjoy the beauty and the fragrance of the applause. And like you would with nasty darts, go ahead and feel the sting of the criticism—don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. But when you lay your head on your pillow at night, take both flowers and darts and place them at the feet of the Master Artist – the one who made you, who understands your heart, and who creates with you – and leave them there. He alone deserves the praise. He alone can heal the wounds. He alone can handle too much of either one.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Bone to Pick

Well, my goose is cooked now.

Local chiropractor Dr. Bruce Narvey has been giving me regular attitude adjustments since I was pregnant with our youngest son, who turned 30 last January! Dr. Narvey has served our family through thick and thin—even going above and beyond by treating Hubby in a Winnipeg hospital following his 1995 arm amputation. And if all that isn’t enough to earn my undying loyalty, the fact that he reads my books ought to be.

Why then, one wonders, would I name a villain after him?

On my last visit to his torture chamber—I mean, office—our conversation sounded something like this:
“I have a bone to pick with you. Just one.”
When a chiropractor has a bone to pick, it can’t be good. Where exactly did he find this bone?
“Yeah. I finished the book. It’s very good. But…”
I always dread the but.
“Did I get something wrong?” My mind skimmed the details of the novel, wondering which historical fact I may have misrepresented.
“Well, I can’t help wondering why the one real jerk in the book has the same name as me.”


I laughed. I remembered naming that character. I knew he was going to be a mean one, but Mr. Grinch had already been taken. Ebenezer seemed too obvious, as did Adolf, Goliath, and Lucifer. Then too, there’s the trick of giving your character a name appropriate to the era and ethnicity. I usually look up the most popular names for the year of a character’s birth and choose from that list. This time, I thought I’d try a little subliminal psychology. I figured if the name sounded like brute, perhaps readers would be subconsciously predisposed to fear him. Hence, Bruce was born.

And honestly, it never occurred to me. But sitting in his office, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

“Well,” I said. “You must have a little bit of bully hidden under the surface, or you wouldn’t enjoy cracking people’s bones.”

This is not a wise thing to say to a man who’s about to crack your bones.

“I do not have any bully in me whatsoever. And I am most certainly not a Nazi sympathizer.”

Oh. I’d forgotten that detail about my fictional Bruce. And about Dr. Narvey’s Jewish heritage. 

We laughed and teased some more. I got my adjustment and walked out better aligned than when I walked in, and with a blog post already beginning to write itself.

Today is Remembrance Day. One reason I like writing novels about life here in Canada during World War II is because of the heroes who fought to end the atrocities overseas. It occurred to me that if no one had prevented Adolf Hitler from completing his mission, Bruce Narvey and I would not be picking bones or laughing together. He would not be my chiropractor or my friend. The Narveys and their people would have been wiped off the planet before Bruce was even born.

And I stopped laughing.

Lest we forget, indeed.