War, Women and the Workplace in Theatrical “Waiting for the Parade” Production


Aletha Currie, right, Crystal Lawrie, Janet Anderson, Bonnie Gratz and Jospehine Stebbings are cast in the Playhouse 25 production of John Murrell’s Waiting for the Parade. It runs Apr. 5-15 at the Creekside Theatre in Lake Country.

At the height of the Second World War, thousands of Canadian women traded in their high heels for work boots.
They donned overalls and headed into the factories and workplaces left empty by the men who dropped their shovels and hammers to pick up guns.
History has made little mention of the women left behind by those men who went off to fight the ultimate battle.
But it is their story that is the focus of Waiting for the Parade, a play revolving around the lives of five Calgary women, circa 1940.
It portrays with honesty and emotion the lives of those very different women, who become connected by events none had envisioned, but are now bound together and destined to wade through to the end.
Presented by the fledgling theatre company, Playhouse 25, the brainchild of thespian Aliske Webb, the play follows the civilian lives of Catherine (Crystal Lawrie), Eve (Josephine Stebbings), Jane t(Aletha Currie), Marta (Bonnie Gratz) and Margaret (Janet Anderson).
“It’s really a play about ordinary women coping through extra-ordinary times,” Webb said. “It’s very well written, well structured with well developed characters.”
Performed as a linked-together series of vignettes, the play “focuses a spotlight” on the lives of the women who are dealing with the war and the absence of their men in different ways as they struggle to keep the home fires burning,
The character of Catherine is coping with a husband overseas, while she works in a canteen and seeks some comfort from the company of another man. Margaret has been dealt a double blow by the war, with one son enlisted and the other a jailed member of the communist party; she fears she will never see either of them again.
Janet’s husband manages to avoid active duty by working for CBC radio and she compensates with a display of bullying patriotism and volunteer work; Eve is a young teacher who focuses her efforts on keeping her students from enlisting.
Marta is caught in the middle by her German-Canadian heritage, neither accepted nor comfortable in either life role.
Although the Playhouse 25 production will make use of several scene sets, the play can also be done using a minimalistic set such as five chairs, which allow the actors to deliver their lines, and interact as needed.
“We’ve chosen to use five ‘home’ sets, one for each of the women, and they basically stay on stage throughout the play,” Webb explained.
“The lighting is very important because of that, as they have spotlights that serve as spotlights on their lives and their reactions to the war.”
In some respects, the play is also somewhat operatic, and the women individually and collectively associate with the music and the dances of the ’40s.
There are popular songs of the era that underscore the ironies that were indicative of the times, such as having the popular Beer Barrel Polka as part of the culture, while vilifying the German people.
In portraying the five women and their differing views of wartime, the actors also draw on their past experiences on stage in past productions.
Several of the women worked together in the much-acclaimed Sins of the Mother, presented last year at the province-wide Ozone Festival.
“Working with actors, with women that you already know, is a great experience,” Stebbings said.
Although the play is a drama, there are humourous moments as well as the women interact.
“We’ve all become very attached to our characters,” Gratz said. “We all have surprises to reveal, and we all have very passionate ideals.”
All of the women have been actively researching the back story of the play in order to do the production justice.
Several have also brought in family memorabilia from the war years, including photos of fathers who served, which are being used as integral parts of the set.
“It’s been an historical journey for us,” Webb added. “We’ve learned lots about our own country and our history. Just talking with my grandmother about the war years has been interesting, and has added to my appreciation of these strong characters.”
Playhouse 25 will also be submitting Waiting for the Parade in the upcoming Ozone Drama Festival, set for May, which attracts several B.C. communities to compete annually for multiple theatrical awards.

Performances at the Creekside Theatre in Lake Country run:

Friday, April 13 /2012 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 14 /2012 at 2pm Matinee 7:30pm

Sunday, April 15 /2012 at 2pm Matinee


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