The work by Dennis Garnhum is a co-production by two respected Canadian resident theatre companies — Theatre Calgary and the Playhouse Theatre Company of Vancouver, British Columbia. Garnhum, who also directs, is artistic director of Theatre Calgary. The production, opening Sept. 21 after previews for a run to Oct. 7, will move to Vancouver later this season.
This is the first stage adaptation of the famous Canadian novel about the struggles of a man in the First World War. The Wars follows the story of Robert Ross, a young Canadian officer who goes to fight in the First World War. There he finds himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare: mud, smoke and chlorine gas. Findley weaves the mythic tale of Ross' desperate attempt to declare his commitment to life amidst the horrors of death.
Findley's novel became a Canadian classic and won the Governor General's Award for fiction. This stage adaptation boasts 16 actors.
Christian Goutsis plays Robert Ross, with Paul Anthony as Private Purchas, Christopher Austman as Private Harris, Paul Cowling as Captain Leather, Jeff Gladstone as Private Levitt, Kevin K. James as Sergeant Macdonald, Rachael Johnston as Maid, Trevor Leigh as Captain Taffler, Hrothgar Matthews as Mr. Ross, Andrew McNee as Private Coté, Stafford Perry as Private Regis, Valerie Planche as Ella, Meg Roe as Rowena, Kerry Sandomirsky as Mrs. Ross, Jordan Schartner as Sergeant Rodwell and Erin Wells as Maria.
The creative team includes Allan Stichbury (set design), Kelly Wolf (costume design), Kevin Lamotte (lighting design), Scott Killian (original music and sound design), Tim Matheson (projection design), Vanessa Porteous (dramaturg), Rick Rinder (stage manager) and Ailsa Birnie (assistant stage manager). Garnhum said in a previous statement, "Timing on this project is a big component. It is time that Theatre Calgary returns to its tradition of presenting new plays, it is time for this very Canadian story about the effect of war on Canadians to be heard, and it is time to celebrate one of our greatest writers."
Vancouver Playhouse's Glynis Leyshon stated, "The Playhouse and our audiences have a deep and abiding connection to the work of our country's finest writers. Over the last few years we have delighted in presenting theatre inspired by such great Canadian writers as Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod and Bill Richardson. I couldn't agree more that this is the perfect time to bring Timothy Findlay's epic story about young people and war to both our communities for reflection and discussion. This potent story, told in an epic manner will inspire the engagement of our entire community in a dialogue of vital importance to us all."
The Wars was tested in three workshops — in New York City in November 2003, at Theatre Calgary's Fuse '06 and as part of Fuse '07.
This is the first presentation between Theatre Calgary and Vancouver's Playhouse Theatre Company in ten years, but the seeds for this were planted long ago.
"Glynis has been interested in this project since its early phases," stated Garnhum. "I have a personal love for the Playhouse, admiring the fine work performed on its stages over the years. I received my MFA from the University of British Columbia, and it is with enormous pride that I return to Vancouver and debut this play on its pre-eminent stage."
Garnhum worked with Finley, directing his last two premieres at the Stratford Festival of Canada. "He was kind enough to call me a colleague, and gentleman enough to call me a friend," Garnhum said. "It is his generous spirit that allows us to bring his glorious novel to our stages."
William Whitehead, partner to Timothy Findley, stated, "'The Wars,' his third novel, was perhaps Tiff's most successful book. Therefore he often imagined the story on the stage. Dennis did a spectacular production at the Stratford Festival of The Trials of Ezra Pound, and I cannot wait to see what he does with The Wars."
For more information visit www.theatrecalgary.com or www.vancouverplayhouse.com.
Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was born in Toronto, Ontario, on Oct. 30, 1930, and died in France June 20, 2002. His first two novels, "The Last of Crazy People" (1967) and "The Butterfly Plague" (1969), were rejected by Canadian publishers and eventually published in Britain. "The Wars," his third novel, won the Governor General's Award for fiction and was adapted for film in 1981. Findley also received the Canadian Authors Association Award, an ACTRA Award, the Order of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Award, and in 1985 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.