Volume 12 Week 5

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(Posted 10:30 a.m., Dec. 13)

Vintage Stock production a study in dealing with loss
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

When it was first unveiled to the world in 1958, the Avro Arrow was supposed to put Canada on the world stage in the aviation industry.

It was a high altitude, supersonic interceptor, the likes of which the world had never seen before. But then, just after the flight test program began, the project was abruptly halted by then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, forcing Avro Aircraft Ltd. to shut its doors and layoff its entire workforce.

It was a devastating blow to the country's image and the self-esteem of the 14,528 technicians and engineers who had poured their heart and soul into the program.

The decision to cancel the Arrow was announced on Feb. 20, 1959, a day referred to as Black Friday in the Canadian aviation industry.

Mazie Foxright, played by Lynn Lebel, confronts her brother Horace, played by Victor Lachance, as her niece and Horace's daughter Peggy Clark, played by Sarah Benfield, looks on. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The Avrow Arrow's cancellation and the impact the decision had on the men and women who worked on the program is the underlying theme of Vintage Stock Theatre's latest production, "First Above All", on this weekend in the Richcraft Theatre at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

"First Above All" tells the story of a family deeply impacted by the tragic loss of loved ones juxtaposed against one man's loss of his sense of identity.

Horace Foxright was among the thousands of people who lost their jobs when the Arrow was cancelled and forced him into retirement. To say that the decision left him angry and bitter is an understatement.

But it his loss any worse than the losses suffered by members of his own family. When his sister Mazie became pregnant during the war and her soldier boyfriend left her standing at the alter, he made her give the baby up for adoption. Their own parents were killed in a car crash.

His daughter Peggy Clark, played by Sarah Benfield, lost her husband in the Korean War, leaving her to look after their 12-year-old son Wellington and her husband's eccentric Aunt Fancey on her own.

Fancey is portrayed as bit of loon during the first half of the play, but her intercedence a day before her unexpected passing and three days before Christmas, provides the impetus to lift Horace out of his doldrums and put the cancellation of the Arrow in proper perspective.

"First Above All" has a lot of endearing moments like the scene in which Fancey , played by Micheline Mathon, teachs young Welly how to do math by watching the test pattern on the television. Or when Horace, who is played by Victor Lachance, tells Welly, played by David Elliott, all about the Avro Arrow and its state-of-the-art Orenda Iroquios engine.

Lynn Lebel also delivers a remarkable perfromance as Mazie Foxright, especially in the scene in which she recounts having to give up her baby

But Benfield'a performance is the glue that keeps the entire production together. The veteran actress deftly portrays a character who must play a delicate balancing act in interacting with the other protaganists in the production while dealing with her own loss.

"First Above All" is the first mother/daughter collaboration between playwrite Marni Hunt-Stephens and her daughter director Sam Leclair. Rounding out the family affair is Sam's husband Greg who manages things behind the scenes.

"First Above All" is a wonderful play with a veteran cast that may provide you with a new outlook on life.

Showtimes are this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. A special matinee performance will also be held on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for child under 12.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

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