August 9, 2022
By Mike Riley
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative
North Hastings Inspiration Place is partnering with Toronto’s Spirit of Maud Theater Company to raise funds for the construction of the new library complex, which will open later this year. According to a July 26 Facebook post, they will stage three plays based on the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery on September 9, 10 and 11, with net proceeds going to the NHIP building fund. Marion Abbott, Founder of the Spirit of Maud Theater Company, Cheryl Easton, Chair of the NHIP Capital Campaign, and Kim McMunn, CEO and Chief Librarian of the North Hastings Public Library all comment on this upcoming event.
On their Facebook page on July 26, NHIP announced this partnership with the Spirt of Maud Theater Company to raise funds for the construction of the new library. They will present three plays, all based on the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, on September 9, 10 and 11. The pieces that will be presented are; All about Anne, Anne and Maud and Conversations with the Ladies by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Tickets will cost $27.50 each or they can be purchased as a set of three tickets for $75. Tickets can be purchased at https://bancroftvillageplayhouse.square.site/inspiration.
Abbott, who founded the Spirit of Maud Theater Company in 2018, says she and Easton have been friends since childhood, dress up together and have stayed in touch ever since via social media.
“When I saw that she was part of the fundraising efforts to build the new library, I reached out and suggested that these pieces be an event, because the connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery and Canadian literature was simply gold. Cheryl was on board immediately and installed it a few days later,” she says.
McMunn says they are so encouraged when people contact them.
“It’s good when they come to us instead of us going to them. It’s great to have the support of the community and even beyond. The Spirit of Maud Theater Company is outside of Toronto, so people really care about it. Even though it is a local construction, it serves a large community. So it’s nice to see a large community coming together for something,” she says.
Bancroft holds a special place in Abbott’s heart.
“I have been coming here since I was born and more often when my parents bought their chalet on Lake Saint-Pierre. I’ve always wanted to be part of the theater community there and also being able to support the building of the new library is such a treat! I am so honored to work with Cheryl and her team and be a part of this exciting event,” she said.
Abbott directed and produced his first show at the age of sixteen and hasn’t stopped for 30 years. She has primarily worked in musical theater and her favorite shows include Jekyll and Hyde, All Shook Up and Oklahoma! and she also created The Confidential Musical Theater Project which has seen her appear in shows across Canada and the United States. She says the Spirit of Maud Theater Company has probably given her the most “soul satisfaction” when it comes to her work.
“[This is] thanks to the rich work of Lucy Maud Montgomery. The company has two goals; to celebrate the work and legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery and to create as many roles and performance opportunities as possible for female artists,” she says.
VSConversations with the Ladies of Lucy Maud Montgomery was the first “Maud” show Abbott premiered in 2014. During lockdown in October 2020, Abbott filmed and streamed a version on his website. Anne and Maud debuted in 2014, while All About Anne: A Celebration of Anne Shirley debuted last April as a test project to see what live theater was like after the COVID-19-induced hiatus. She says she has since expanded the first version to include more material.
The three plays that are presented at the Village Playhouse in September just opened this month to the repertoire in Norval, Ontario, where Maud lived from 1926 to 1935.
“People love to hear her lyrics performed and connect with her in a place where she spent so much time. Viewers were moved to tears by the beauty of the performances and laughed a lot too! Many commented on how great watching these shows inspires them to revisit their favorite Lucy Maud Montgomery books and how current her writing is,” she says.
In addition to the coins, there will be a silent auction that will follow the period in which the coins run. Easton says they’ve already received a quilt, some hand-painted saws and some artwork. They will be accepting donations to the NHPL through September 8.
“So it’s quite exciting. It’s going pretty well,” she said.
Abbott reveals that Avra Fainer, Brianna Taylor and Gabrielle Bauman appear in all three productions, while Alice Malakhov appears in All About Anne: A Celebration of Anne Shirley, Diana Lavelle appears in Conversations with the Ladies by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Heidi Ross, Paul Barker and Stephanie Rose appear in Anne and Maud. A full cast list is available at www.marionabbott.com/spirit-of-maud-theatre-company.
McMunn wanted to thank the Village Playhouse, which she called one of the biggest catalysts for the event’s potential success.
“We were looking for a place to have this and we approached them to see if it was possible and they jumped everywhere. Our dream was to be in the theater and they granted it to us. They have been extremely kind and kind to us and we are very grateful for this partnership,” she says.
Abbott says if anyone has ever enjoyed Anne Shirley in any form; the book, the movies, the TV show, then they’ll love these plays coming to the Village Playhouse in September.
“They are a comforting, soul-affirming kindness in a world that is very much at odds these days. You will leave the theater inspired by the imagination of Anne and the genius of Canadian Lucy Maud Montgomery.