Since Twenty Something Theatre’s first foray into the world of new play development in 2010 with the introduction of the annual Spotlight production featuring an emerging playwright on a 3-year cycle we have produced and put out into the world 2 brand new Canadian plays. This commitment to the development of new Canadian plays has now become one of the main objectives and values of the company. This year – after taking a year off – the Spotlight production returns once more to featuring a local emerging playwright: Julie McIsaac and her play The Out Vigil.
After seeing a public reading of the play back in 2011, I have kept this play in the back of my mind and when it came time to choose a new playwright for our Spotlight production I knew instantly who and what play I would choose. Julie has a long history with Twenty Something Theatre having performed the lead role of Evelyn in our 2007 production of The Shape of Things, she was involved early on in the development process for Prodigals - our first Spotlight production featuring playwright Sean Minogue - and most recently contributed to the development and performed the role of Rachel in Sean’s second play, Us & Everything We Own.
But beyond all this history, The Out Vigil, is a play that is different than anything Twenty Something Theatre has produced before and I couldn’t be happier to have this play as our next new play in development. Below is a little more on the play and Julie’s experience as a theatre artist as well as some of her personal history as it relates to the The Out Vigil:
Combining music and myth, folklore and fact, The Out Vigil is the story of Lizzie Brown from Little Harbour, Newfoundland. Haunted by the ghosts of her crumbling community and struggling in the wake of feckless rituals and fading traditions, Lizzie must tread carefully as she navigates new hazards and superstitions among the foolhardy king crab fisherman of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. How can she plan for a future when her ancestors’ ways have been all but abandoned, and only further loss seems certain?
Julie McIsaac is a multi-faceted theatre artist already well known to the Vancouver community. In addition to her award-winning work as an actor/singer/musician, she is an intriguing emerging director, and is highly sought-after as an arts educator throughout the Lower Mainland. A graduate of Carleton University and the Canadian College of Performing Arts, Julie’s work as a playwright began with a year-long mentorship with dramaturge Christopher Weddell – over the course of which she developed the original one-act Incidental Music. The development of The Out Vigil is an exciting new project; the result of many years’ work, including a previous public reading and a research trip to Newfoundland, both in 2011.
Julie’s paternal ancestors hail from the cliffs of Cape Breton and the fjords of Norway, and she grew up on the shores of Georgian Bay, in a small francophone community not far from Penetanguishene, Ontario (the Huron name of the town roughly translates as “land of the white rolling sands”). She remembers her childhood home as an unlikely and brazen structure, its wooden beams and rough stones silent among the birches at the edge of the wilderness, its nighttime’s darkness periodically interrupted by the transiting beam of a nearby lighthouse.
Here, Julie recalls, one was raised knowing the nearby waters were to be both loved and feared. Though celebrated for being clear, warm, and calm, “the Bay” was also known for its sudden storms and unseen rocks and shoals. And while Julie’s father was an avid boater and swimmer, her mother’s relationship with the water was decidedly different, having been informed by some frightening early experiences, as well as a sudden tragedy that forever changed the fabric of the family.
Not surprisingly, maritime culture has long been a source of fascination and inspiration for Julie, and this play is a tribute to the evocative rites and symbols of these sea-faring peoples, and a dramatic look at the perilous practices of fishing communities both old and new. Proud to be a bilingual artist, Julie hopes to later translate The Out Vigil into Acadian French.