Hilda’s Yard brings cast, crew, audience together
By Sue Tiffin
Published Aug. 1, 2017
A commute at the end of the work week couldn’t keep Terri Hawkes from summer theatre.
The director, playwright and actor is used to travelling from Toronto to Haliburton for leisure time, but for the past few months, she’s been hitting the road instead for her role as director of Hilda’s Yard, being presented as part of the Highlands Summer Festival (HSF).
“It’s a beautiful drive, and I feel very lucky to be in the Highlands once I’m there,” she said.
Hawkes said that as a cottager, first on Gull Lake and then on Little Redstone, she has felt part of the community for 15 years now, but had really wanted to be part of what she called the vibrant arts community in Haliburton County as more than a spectator. She pitched herself to Scott Denton, HSF artistic director, and when Hilda’s Yard, a play by Norm Foster came into the lineup, it went to her.
“Not only do I love Norm Foster’s work, I also love his sense of humour and appreciate the underlying social commentary in his plays,” she said. “He really understands people, relationships, love and laughter.”
Hilda’s Yard, which debuted in Fredericton in 2012, is a comedy set in 1956. Sam and Hilda Fluck, played in the local show by Brian and Beth Kipping, think they are new empty-nesters after their kids Gary and Janey move out. The key word is “think,” however, as the children end up returning and life happens not entirely as planned. Hilarity ensues, but the play also gives the audience the chance for self-reflection.
“There’s a lot of meaning in Foster’s work, and yet there’s a lot of laughter,” said Hawkes. “The play really brings up the nostalgia of the ‘50s. There’s a lot of fun music, quaint ‘50s expressions like ‘jumping Jupiter!’ and ‘holy moly!’ that I remember my mother would say. It’s really gratifying to see that, and at the same time, see a very fresh look at relationships today, roles within the family and gender roles.”
Hawkes said the play notes the stigmatized social issues of the ‘50s, and so though the setting is one from the past, the story itself can impact a modern-day audience looking for meaning.
“Even though the words are never used, there are references to domestic abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and circumstances not talked about in the ‘50s,” she said. “The characters turn out to be progressive, and in that sense, bring the conversation into 2017.”
Her hope is that middle-aged empty-nesters and seniors who have “lived through it all,” will bring their kids and other family members and neighbours to experience the play together, and continue the conversation after leaving the theatre.
“It’s always my hope as an artist that we can bring people into a space where they can be entertained, but also touched and provoked to think about their lives and what they might want to shift and change to enhance their families’ lives and their communities,” said Hawkes.
Besides the commute, Hawkes said it was a unique experience to work on a play to be performed in Haliburton with cast and crew in different places. At one point, a conference call took place while Hawkes was in Calgary, a designer was in Orangeville and Denton was in Toronto.
“The designers live in different spaces, the actors live in different spaces, the director commutes, the producers are based in Haliburton, but people came together from all around,” she said, noting “wonderfully talented people who are passionate enough to go to a lot of effort to show up and participate.”
Hilda’s Yard will be performed from Aug. 1 to 4 and 9 to 11 at 8 p.m. at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion (5358 County Road 21) as part of the Highlands Summer Festival.
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 705-457-9933 or 855-457-9933, online at highlandssummerfestival.on.ca or at the door an hour before each performance if available.