For U.S. audiences, Canada's Farm Show of 1972 is a mostly unheard of footnote in North American theatre history. But to playwright Michael Healey, who utilizes the agricultural-play-cum-international-success-story as the inspiration for his own hit The Drawer Boy, The Farm Show is a cultural touchstone.
"The Farm Show showed that we Canadians could tell our own stories. It was a turning point for the creation of an indigenous theatre. Before that, everything was influenced by British or American theatre....I'm a beneficiary of that. My plays are workshopped, put on, because of what they started," he said.
His Drawer Boy is the new ambassador for Canadian theatre — the play will be one of the most produced of the 2002-2003 theatre season with a total of 10 productions planned for companies across the United States. San Jose Repertory is the first to bring The Drawer Boy to the West Coast, where it will play Aug. 31 - Sept. 24.
The Drawer Boy is the story of three men brought together by a Canadian theatre project much like The Farm Show. Bachelor farmers Angus and Morgan, life-long friends and World War II vets, find their lives disrupted by Miles, a young actor staying with them in order research a play he's co-writing with his small theatre company. What he discovers, he dramatizes without Angus and Morgan's permission, but seeing their lives recreated on stage changes their relationship forever.
The Drawer Boy premiered in Toronto in 2000, where it garnered the Dora Award for best play. A theatre in Cleveland first brought the play to the United States, but it was the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago, whose 2001 production starring "Fraiser"'s John Mahoney and director Frank Galati, that brought The Drawer Boy to national attention. Mahoney has stuck with role of Morgan, recently playing it at the Galway Festival and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. For the San Jose Repertory production, Dion Anderson stars as Morgan with Bob Morrisey as Angus. Sheffield Chastain is Miles.
San Jose Rep associate artistic director John McCluggage will direct. His credits include the Rep's A Flea in Her Ear, Over the Tavern, Communicating Doors, Mizlansky/Zilinsky and Old Wicked Songs.
Tickets in San Jose are $20-$32. San Jose Repertory Theatre is located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. For reservations, call (408) 367-7255. San Jose Repertory Theatre is on the web at http://www.sjrep.com.
— By Christine Ehren