Family, faith & acceptance @ Alumnae Theatre’s Big Ideas Festival of readings

A great evening of theatre in process up in the Alumnae Theatre studio space last night with a Big Ideas reading of Francine Dick’s play Preparing For Passover, directed/dramaturged by Kerri MacDonald.

Five adult sisters prepare their parents’ home for Passover. An Orthodox Jewish family, their adherence to their faith – and even their core spirituality – is tested in the aftermath of their brother’s recent and sudden death. He was the youngest of the family and the only son, and their mother has fallen into a deep depression and rage as a result. Each sister struggles with her own, and often glossed-over, life challenges as they try to draw their mother back into the world and her religion, which she now shuns. A surprise visitor at the end of Act One becomes a catalyst for personal revelation, and an opportunity for acceptance and forgiveness.

As I looked at the collection of female actors MacDonald had assembled for this reading, I realized I knew all these women (mostly from my previous work at Alumnae): Tara Baxendale, Esther Jaciuk, Heather Johnson, Krista Marchand, Tina McCulloch and Candi Zell. Lovely cast and direction.

From a creative stand-point, one of the big benefits of doing a public reading is not only that it provides the playwright with an opportunity to hear the play aloud, but also to witness audience reaction and get feedback on the script and characters. For the audience, it is an opportunity to engage with new works and witness the process. To this end, there was a talkback after the reading, where a few interesting points came up. The first act, largely exposition and thought by and large to be overly wordy, was still in progress and there were already plans in the works to trim it down, so the core points could come to the forefront. Also, the characters were in various stages of development, so they would be rounded out. Several folks, including at least one of the actors, thought it would be nice to see the mother at some point. On the one hand, she’s talked about so much that audience curiosity is piqued, but having a character that is essentially invisible, with a very powerful presence in the hearts and minds of the other characters, can also be a very effective element.

Nice work all around – and it’s always a treat to see new works in progress.

Big Ideas continues up in the Alumnae Studio tonight through Sunday evening. The event is free, but donations to Alumnae Theatre are welcome. Check the Alumnae New Play Development page for program details:

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Regarding yesterday’s post on the Last Temptation Acoustic Wednesday: I realized I’d neglected to include web co-ordinates for Jessica Speziale and Kat Leonard. You can find Jessica at: and be sure to look out for her upcoming gig (with her band) at The Central this Saturday night at 7 p.m., opening for Alter Kakers. You can find Kat at:


Author: life with more cowbell

Arts/culture social bloggerfly. Out & proud. Torontonian. Likes playing with words. A lot.

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