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Great Article in the Irish Independent

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Jaki goes to Canada for play
March 18 2017 12:00 AM

Dundalk playwright Jaki McCarrick has travelled to Canada where her play ‘The Belfast Girls’ is being staged as part of the Vancouver Irish festival CelticFest this week.
At a time when the play’s theme of ‘fallen women’ poignantly resonates with the Tuam mother and baby home scandal, the production by the British Columbian theatre company Penninsula Productions, has received enthusiastic reviews.
‘BELFAST GIRLS has just opened in British Columbia to a wonderful reception – there’s been great praise for this show,’ a delighted Jaki told The Argus.

The production is directed by Wendy Bollard and the opening night of the Canadian premiere was sold out. Afterwards, the cast were treated to a backstage visit by none other than Hollywood actress Julia Stiles, who saw and loved the show.
BELFAST GIRLS opened at the Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock on March 11 from where it travelled to the Cultch Theatre, Vancouver, where it runs from March 15th to 18th as part of later shows are part of the Vancouver Celtic Festival.

Opening as it did, during International Women’s Day and when confirmation of the mass graves of over 700 babies in Tuam and the abuse of the young woman ‘Grace’ in a foster home dominates the news, the play is a timely reminder that women remain in a vulnerable position in society.
Jaki’s play tells the story of women who sought escape from the bleak life in the workhouse during the famine years by availing of an offer to transport ‘fallen women’ to Australia. It follows the story of ‘The Belfast Girls’ as they journeyed by sea to what they hoped was a new and better life in Australia.

BELFAST GIRLS was first developed at the National Theatre Studio, London in 2012 and while on the surface it is a feminist ‘Irish Famine’ story, Jaki also saw it a metaphor for the banking crisis, showing how the state takes advantage of the most vulnerable in society during a time of crisis.
This is the third international production of the play as it was previously staged in Chicago where it was Windy City Times Critics’ Pick, although it has yet to be staged in Ireland.

‘Wendy Bollard is a wonderful director and she has assembled a cracking cast and production team,’ said Jaki.’ The all-female cast includes Mariam Barry, Olivia Sara Grace, Tegan Verheul, Paige Gibbs, Amelia Ross.’
Jaki attended the opening night of the Vancouver run and will also be taking part in a Question and Answers event after the show on March 16.

‘I know a lot of writers don’t attend their shows abroad but I feel differently about this,’ she says. ‘Firstly, I’m a female playwright and the work of female playwrights is performed abroad much less, especially if it’s from a relative newbie like myself or if the work is quite political like Belfast Girls. I want to be of support to the piece and the people pouring their heart and souls into it.’
‘Belfast Girls’ was listed as one of the top five attractions of Vancouver’s CelticFest by the Vancouver Sun.

Having attended the first night, Jaki praised director Wendy Bollard & Peninsula Productions for their ‘splendidly slick and thoughtful Belfast Girls. A poetic production full of confident and intelligent choices – and with a magnificent cast, too!’
In addition, a staged reading of BELFAST GIRLS was presented by New York’s Pond Theatre Company on March 13th in New York.

Fantastic Interview with Jaki McCarrick in the Peace Arch News

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Great Article in the Vancouver Sun About Belfast Girls

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Belfast Girls Exposes An Underreported Part of Irish-Australian History

Belfast Girls - Peninsula Productions presents the Canadian premiere of Jaki McCarrick's captivating play Belfast Girls, directed by Wendy Bollard.  Belfast Girls tells the story of five young women who escape starvation in 1850 Ireland by winning passage on a ship bound for Australia as part of Earl Grey's "orphan scheme." McCarrick examines themes of class, race and misogyny through the turbulent journey of these women's lives. [PNG Merlin Archive]
Belfast Girls tells the story of five young women who escape starvation in 1850 Ireland by winning passage on a ship bound for Australia as part of Earl Grey’s “orphan scheme.” HANDOUT PHOTO/FROM PENINSULA PRODUCTIONS, PHOTO CREDIT BEVERLY MALCOM / PNG

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Belfast Girls

March 1-11 | Coast Capital Playhouse, White Rock, 1532 Johnston Road

March 15-18 | The Cultch (part of CelticFest Vancouver)

Tickets: $20-$27 (White Rock); $25 — $30 (The Cultch) at peninsulaproductions.org

(Not suitable for young audiences; extreme language and violence)

Scoring the Canadian premiere of playwright Jaki McCarrick’s 2015 play Belfast Girls is a big deal for Peninsula Productions. Formed in 2010 to bring professional entertainment to the White Rock/South Surrey region, the company has presented numerous concerts, plays and a staged reading series. It is also commissioning a play about White Rock for Canada 150.

With Belfast Girls, Peninsula Productions takes its show on tour playing both its home digs in White Rock as well as at the Cultch as part of this year’s CelticFest Vancouver.

“We started about six years ago out of a desire to bring more professional performing arts to the White Rock/South Surrey area and establish a professional theatre company,” said Peninsula Productions’ artistic director Wendy Bollard. “We were lucky enough to get some grant money to get started, and, as of this January, the City of White Rock has leased us a space that we are hoping to turn into a black box theatre. There is also a fantastic amateur theatre group here — White Rock Players’ Club — that has produced such noted local theatre people as Dean Paul Gibson (Bard on the Beach, others), who have been very supportive.”

Bollard has performed at both venues during her days as a touring jazz vocalist. Some years back, she tried her hand at directing and realized she loved it. In 2015, she obtained her Masters in Directing in London, UK, and is excited to be helming Belfast Girls. The show has been a passion of hers since discovering the play at London’s famed Samuel French theatre books store.

“It’s a really powerful play about a very tumultuous time in the 1850s when revolutions were happening all over Europe, when the famine was turning Ireland upside down, when the suffragette movement was active and there were these women being shipped off to Australia from the workhouses in Belfast believing that they were going to paradise only to find something very different,” she said. “During the long passage, the five women the story centres around start learning more about what’s going on in the world and they get pretty riled up. It’s a really powerful ensemble piece.”

Ensemble pieces with an entirely female cast are rare. So the auditions for Belfast Girls were busy indeed. Bollard wanted to put together a very supportive group to tackle the vulnerable material who could work within the play’s guidelines. It wasn’t always easy.

“One of the characters is a woman who has a Jamaican mother and an Irish father and trying to find someone to fill that role here in Vancouver wasn’t as easy as it might have been,” she said. “And there is a love affair between her and another woman that develops so there was a very special kind of chemistry required. There were a lot of boxes to check off.”

The same is true of the content of McCarrick’s play which aimed to expose the ugly side of the particular wave of Irish immigration that the story magnifies. Many of the women pulled off the streets to take the trip Down Under were “public women” (a.k.a. prostitutes) forced into the sex trade following being orphaned by the famine or falling on other hard times. Lured by the prospect of a better chance abroad and to escape the social judgment of home, these women undertook the hard three month-long boat ride only to land and be ostracized as slatterns upon arrival. Of course, in a typically Australian twist, the fact that there was a shortage of women in the colony and great demand for all manner of skilled and unskilled labour meant that, within a few years, many of these mistreated women turned the tables on their latest oppressors.

Belfast Girls doesn’t go that far into the history. Instead, it’s a rough and randy ride through the five characters’ reasons for taking the trip and the realities they face on the voyage. McCarrick has hit on a part of the Emerald Isle mythology that has been ignored and deserves exposure.

“She is writing the screenplay at this very moment,” said Bollard. “Obviously, shifting the focus to one of the characters rather than the ensemble as storytelling changes depending on the medium. I think you need to see the stage version.”

And afterwards, you can chase back the experience with a Guinness or Bushmills.

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

twitter.com/stuartderdeyn

 

Preview in the Sun

The 39 Steps Preview

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Hitchcock thriller takes a ‘goofy’ turn in stage adaptation

Ashley O

Ashley O’Connell, Corey Haas and Ben Odberg are part of the madness that ensues when four actors take on the task of reproducing a Hitchcock thriller in the stage romp The 39 Steps.

— image credit: Contributed photo

It sounds like something that started as a bet.

Creating a stage version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 movie, The 39 Steps – a very British spy thriller – would be hard to manage even with an unlimited budget and all the technology of 21st century Broadway.

Sudden shots in a music hall, a murder in a London flat, a desperate railway journey to Scotland, a pell-mell flight across the highlands with police in hot pursuit… it beggars the imagination.

Try it on a bare-bones set with just four actors – and a grab-bag of costumes and props – who must somehow portray close to 150 roles, plus a few inanimate objects, as well as suggest every change of location.

English playwright, director and performer Simon Corble did just that in 1995 with collaborator Nobby Dimon, and the results of the experiment in pure theatre were picked up and rewritten 10 years later by Patrick Barlow in what became a London, and subsequently worldwide, hit.

Now The 39 Steps is coming to White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse, (July 8-25, 1532 Johnston Rd.) thanks to Wendy Bollard and Geoff Giffin’s Peninsula Productions.

Director is well-known Vancouver theatre personality Matthew Bissett (A Night On Broadway), with Corey Haas starring as suave hero Richard Hannay – and every other role being played by Laura Caswell, Ashley O’Connell and Ben Odberg.

The results of their determined, demented efforts to reproduce the film are bound to be laughable, Peninsula artistic director Bollard said.

Which, of course, is the whole point – in its stage incarnation, The 39 Steps has evolved into a high-camp comedy that pits the plot of John Buchan’s stiff-upper-lip novel, and the old-school heroics of Hannay, against the frenzied efforts of the cast to live up to the daffy premise.

“I love the fresh take that Matthew has on the play,” Bollard said. “He’s decided it’s about four actors in a theatre who have decided to put this on – and they have to use whatever comes to hand in the theatre. The way Matthew is staging it, all the actors are doing their own scene changes.

“There’s lots of room for a lot of fun, a lot of creativity – and a lot of goofiness.”

It helps, of course, when you have a director like Bissett – whose playful, improvisational approach Bollard lauds – and four actors who are more than willing to go there, including South Surrey resident Haas, who is also doubling as part-time administrator for the Peninsula season .

“Corey as Hannay is doing a great job,” Bollard said. “He’s very funny. During the auditions he was doing all these different accents, and suddenly at one point, when he came to do a Hannay line, he lost the accent completely.

“He just leaned over casually and said ‘apparently Hannay’s Mexican!'”

Laura Caswell, from Toronto – known for her own Carol Burnett tribute show – came to Bollard’s attention through mutual friends who had worked with her at Stratford.

She plays three female roles: mysterious German-accented femme fatale ‘Annabella Smith,’ the browbeaten wife of an abusive highlands crofter, and heroine Pamela, who spends much of the show in stubborn resistance to the idea that Hannay could have been swept up – innocently – in a plot to smuggle aviation secrets to a ‘foreign power’.

“She was visiting family on the West Coast when she decided to audition for the show – there were many great people who came out to audition, but she just immediately ‘got it’,” Bollard said.

All of the other roles are played by Irish actor O’Connell – who made his West Coast debut with the White Rock Players Club before winning attention for his comedic skills in such Vancouver shows as the Arts Club’s hit Spamalot – and versatile local favourite Odberg (who also starred in Peninsula Productions’ The Game’s Afoot and Blithe Spirit).

Even the physical contrast (“Ben’s quite tall, while Ashley’s about five-foot-six) lends humour to the clownish roles they play, Bollard said.

The non-stop action has them morphing from spies, to travelling salesmen, to a hotel keeper and his wife – almost literally at the drop of a hat, she said, noting that other actors are known to have sweated off pounds during runs of the show.

Clothes also do a lot of the work in creating the look of the show, and Bollard credits Mahara Sinclaire with doing “a phenomenal job” with vintage styles that don’t slavishly follow the costume plot of the London and New York productions.

The audience is invited to “play along and have fun” with the lightweight summer show, Bollard said.

“And the whole thing is over in just two hours, including intermission.”

 

Tickets ($25; seniors/children $20) are available from www.peninsulaproductions.org or 604-536-7535.

 

The Cast of Steel Magnolias

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Exciting News!

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images-5

 

We couldn’t be happier to announce that “WE HAVE A HOME!”

Semiahmoo Arts and Peninsula Productions have partnered to share the arts space that is located at 14600 North Bluff Road, right beside Centennial Arena

Please stay tuned for information about our office hours, grand opening party, upcoming workshops and play reading events in the new space.

City of White Rock Supports the Arts

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Peninsula theatre groups gets $10,000 for veterans tribute

  - File

— Image Credit: File
  • posted Jul 17, 2014 at 3:00 PM— updated Jul 21, 2014 at 3:33 PM

White Rock council members didn’t hesitate last week when it came to a request for funding to help with a project honouring local veterans and their families.

With no public discussion and by a unanimous vote July 14, the politicians approved a $10,000 contribution to Peninsula Productions – funds that enable the company to present Stephen Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding in November.

In a July 4 letter requesting the funds, the group’s Geoff Giffin and Wendy Bollard write that they learned only recently of the opportunity to present the play – too late to be considered for the city’s leisure-services budget.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, they note, and the play is to commemorate “the great sacrifice that Canadians made during this time.”

It tells the story of a young man and woman at the beginning of the First World War who fall in love, and explores “the pain and sacrifice of ordinary Canadians.”

Bollard described Mary’s Wedding as “a beautiful piece of theatre… I’ve loved this play for years.”

The total budget for the production is $25,000, of which $15,000 is to be generated through ticket sales, fundraising and other community support.

Without the city’s help, the show would not go on, Giffin told Peace Arch News after Monday’s meeting.

The play is to be presented at the White Rock Elementary “black box theatre” – a 180-seat studio – from Nov. 11-15, with the Remembrance Day (Tuesday, Nov. 11) performance dedicated to veterans and families. Four additional performances open to the general public will be presented over the following days.

Monday’s funding injection is not the first from the city to Peninsula Productions this year. In March, the group – along with the White Rock Players Club – received a $1,500 grant-in-aid.

Melanie Minty Reviews Blithe Spirit!

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Peninsula Productions, in only a few short years, has made great strides in establishing itself as a professional company. Its summer production of “Blithe Spirit,” by Noel Coward, is simply flawless at Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock, until July 26. This entirely delightful comedy farce first made its debut in 1941. Coward wrote this play in six days and declared it to be witty and well-constructed. He felt it would be a success. And it was – and the tradition continues with Peninsula Productions.

Director Wendy Bollard has not only selected a brilliant cast, she has led them to the ultimate prize in theatre teamwork: a totally entertaining and well-constructed production. Congratulations.

At the theatre on Johnston Road, the first thing that greets the audience is the absolutely amazing set designed by Matt Vondette. Give a round of applause to set construction crew Richard Stanyer, Gary West, Patrick Maloney and Andy Sorensen. Roberto the Polish Painter gets set painting credit, along with Patte Rust and Mahara Sinclaire. And I wonder where properties person Rosemary Schuster found so many period pieces. Duck decoys and bronze carnival horses must have come from someone’s collection. Whimsical, indeed.

Anais West’s costumes were perfectly crafted, and perfectly period for the ’40s. Well done. Of course, there are many more people involved in the backstage part of the production, but no review can be complete without complimenting the actors.

Seven actors have the job of making all the bits and pieces come together in a seamless presentation. Anabel Kershaw is the suitably silly medium Madame Arcati, and Cherise Clarke shines as the “blithe” spirit. Audiences will recognize Lori Tych and Ben Odberg from previous Peninsula productions. Once again, they give excellent performances. Andrew Wood, Sheila Reader and Stefania Wheelhouse round out this wonderful cast.

Peninsula Productions president Geoff Giffin has a word to say as well: “As always, we offer profound thanks to our volunteers, our sponsors, our actors and, above all, to you, our audience.”

Yes, Geoff, that is the bottom line. And we, the audience, thank you for bringing us worthwhile productions.

For tickets to “Blithe Spirit,” visit Peninsula Productions’ website (Peninsulaproductions.org), or call the box office at 604-536-7535. I think you will enjoy the show.

melminty@telus.net

© Surrey Now

– See more at: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/entertainment/local-entertainment/melanie-minty-teamwork-in-flawless-comedy-blithe-spirit-in-white-rock-1.1208916#sthash.jNcHDA5d.dpuf

New Concert Series

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City of White Rock Sponsors New Classical Music Series!

 

Peninsula Productions and Music Encore Concert Society have joined forces to create four Sunday afternoons of spectacular music to be performed at The First United Church in White Rock.   The concerts will feature musicians from Canada, Russia and Italy.  “When I brought the idea of the series to the city they were delighted,” says Eugene Skovorodnikov the Artistic Director of Music Encore Concert Society.  The city suggested that Eugene meet with Peninsula Productions and a partnership was formed.

Eugene Skovorodnikov has performed in the famous concert halls of the world such as St. Petersburg Philharmonic Hall (St. Petersburg, Russia), Theatre Bibiena (Mantova, Italy), Grand Theatre (Shenzhen, China), and Xinghai Concert Hall (Guangzhou, China)to name but a few. A stylistic interpreter and technically brilliant concert pianist, Eugene has recently made South Surrey his home.   Peninsula Productions is a White Rock/South Surrey based not-for-profit that has a track record for putting on extraordinary performances.

In their ongoing efforts to be a city that supports the arts, the City of White Rock is sponsoring the series.