Almost four years ago, writing the history of Regina's Globe Theatre, I came across the story of Florence James. For decades she'd run one of the most oppositional cultural orgs anywhere in the States, her Seattle Repertory Playhouse in Seattle. Inevitably, she ran afoul of the McCarthy-lead House Un-American Activities Committee, the self-proclaimed Commie-exterminators. Hounded out of the U.S., she got a job with the CCF government here in Sask, hired as the first Drama Consultant of the brand new Sask Arts Board.
For the next 15 years, Florence did everything for theatre in these parts--teaching, dramaturgy, producing, writing, directing, adjudicating, giving workshops, and so on. She knew what the province needed was a professional company. Having heard about Ken and Sue Kramer, she found them some Arts Board seed money to start that company in Regina in 1966.
A few years later, Florence retired and moved to Ottawa to live with her daughter. Ken Kramer remembers that one day at Globe he got a call from the daughter, saying, "Ken, have you got something mom can do? She's driving me nuts."
Now it was Kramer's time to find some money to hire Florence. She did everything around the theatre--from pouring lemonade at intermission to giving notes during rehearsal. She even acted once or twice. Playing the maid in Three Sisters, Florence, whose vision was going, needed help to move about the stage, so Kramer wrote himself a role that allowed him to be her on-stage caddy.
But the point of my story is this: At one point, somebody said to Florence, "Isn't stuffing envelopes too trivial a job for someone of your stature?" to which Florence, bless her heart, replied, "There are no trivial jobs in theatre."
That's a story that makes me cry.
And it enables me to embrace a task like the one I set for myself today: painting a 7-foot elm on cardboard. The flats of cardboard I'd retrieved from the Ace Courier dumpster the other day; the paints (tempura, in greens and brown) I'd picked up a week ago. My first-ever gig as scenic painter, and it turned out--take my word for it, dear Reader--pretty well.
It's the tree Pete will carry on stage at the top of a scene we're doing at the TicTocTen festival at Artesian on March 9. Pete's about to sit with his coffee and enjoy the park in summer, once he installs our tree.
Since the tree is made out of two flats, maybe Patty will carry the leaves on and install them, leading to her exchange with Pete . . .