Stage Door News
Blyth: Canadian author Lawrence Hill highlights Blyth Festival events to celebrate 45th season
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Canadian author Lawrence Hill will highlight a unique series of events at Blyth Festival to celebrate 45 seasons of developing and producing plays that give a rich voice to both rural South Western Ontario and the entire country. The award-winning author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal will speak from the theatre’s main stage about his passionate views on elder care and assisted dying in Canada, providing his perspective on the journey to death for his extraordinary mother, Donna Mae Hill. At 90 years old, after a remarkable life, much of it spent fighting for civil rights in Canada, Donna Mae Hill travelled to Switzerland for an assisted death because Canada’s laws prohibited it. Lawrence Hill and his niece were present at her end of life. Select books written by Lawrence Hill will be available for sale and signing.“We are profoundly moved by Lawrence Hill’s decision to share the inspiring legacy of his tireless mother with our audience. This past summer, I read his Act of Love: The Life and Death of Donna Mae Hill in the Globe and Mail online, and I was utterly blown away. His passion, his eloquence, his care, and his ferocious opinion, caught me immediately, so I wrote to him and asked him to please come and share his story. We really look forward to helping him amplify his message,” said Gil Garratt, who is artistic director of Blyth Festival.
In its 2019 Season, the Festival will premiere In the Wake of Wettlaufer, written by Kelly McIntosh and Garratt, a hard-hitting but compassionate play based on interviews with families of victims of nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, convicted of murdering eight residents in nursing homes. The playwrights also attended the public inquiry led by Justice Gillese and continue to interview personal support workers and nurses working in elder care in Ontario. The play follows a group of fictional siblings who are in the process of moving their elderly father into long-term care. The family grapples with many of the struggles families in this circumstance endure: unresolved rivalries, differences of opinion in the level of care, siblings spread across the country, arm wrestles over power-of-attorney, and their own conflicting memories of their lives with their father. The siblings then learn, as dozens of Ontario families were confronted with in 2016, that in the same facility, Wettlaufer has committed multiple murders. After that, the siblings closely follow the conviction, sentencing, and subsequent public inquiry.
Lawrence Hill’s talk will be one of four complementary events engaging with themes and ideas emerging from the Wettlaufer play. The following panel discussions are also planned: The Making of In the Wake of Wettlaufer at the Huron County Museum on Thursday, July 18 at 7 pm; The Healing Power of Art in palliative medicine in our Lower Hall on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 4:30 pm; and, What is a Good Death? in our Lower Hall on Thursday, Aug. 29 at noon, with a pre-order lunch available. These events will be part of a new series called Deeper Roots, which will enrich the Festival’s 45th season with 28 additional events to complement the five main stage plays and two studio plays. The events include artist talk backs, live interviews with circus performers, panel discussions on contemporary agricultural practices, a cake parade and bake-off, cake-baking master-classes, and much more.
Lawrence Hill was recipient of the 2017 Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for outstanding contributions to the arts. He is also the winner of The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and is the only two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers in the United States and Canada and won 11 Canadian Screen Awards in 2016. Lawrence Hill is also a Member of the Order of Canada.
Since 1975, the Festival has premiered more than 135 plays, and is set to premiere two more in its 45th Season, with Jumbo by Sean Dixon and In the Wake of Wettlaufer by Kelly McIntosh and Gil Garratt.The 2019 Season will be another extended season, with 106 performances of five plays on its mainstage, running from early June until the end of September. It will also feature two productions in its Phillips Studio, programming for youth, and its perennial three-day Bonanza Weekend of four plays. As well, The Pigeon King, which premiered in 2017 and made an encore appearance in 2018, heads to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (April 24 to May 5).
Lawrence Hill will speak on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets, $10 Blyth Festival Members, $15 Non-Members, are available at the Blyth Festival box office, 431 Queen St., Blyth, by calling 877.862.5984 or by visiting online. The full schedule for Deeper Roots is available online.
For more information, visit blythfestival.com.
Photo: Lawrence Hill.