Friday, April 11, 1997

TENT MEETING (Apr 11 - May 3, 1997)

by Morris Ertman & Ron Reed
World Premiere of revised version

This nostalgic visit to the Canadian prairies of the 1930s first appeared on Alberta stages and audeinces were enchanted. Now e've commissioned playwright Ron Reed and dramaturg Frank Moher to develop that original script, retaining all the charm, character and thrilling gospel singing of the original hit!

Joyous! Anyone raised on Prairie church singing would be hard put not to clap hands and tap toes."
The Edmonton Journal

George Hoveland / Bob Lefsrud - Ron Reed
Pastor Ernest Douglas / Ben Reimer - Francis Boyle
Reverend Elroy Phillips - Don Noble
Sam Lundquist / Angus McPhee - Jonathan Bruce
Dolly Hoveland - Karen Parent

Director - Morris Ertman
Set - Morris Ertman
Light - Kevin McAllister
Costumes - Meg Ross
Dramaturg - Frank Moher
Stage Manager - Nicole Vieira
Technical Director - Rose Pelleirn
Props - Kevin Brady (company apprentice)

Funding - The Cultural Services Branch of the Government of British Columbia, The Leon And Thea Koerner Foundation, The Vancouver Foundation


From the Project Creator

Tent Meeting started as a labour of love really, a tribute to a time touched through the memories of my parents and the nostalgic living out of that memory in a gospel quartet, of which my Dad was a part, rehearsing in our living room. Theirs was not the tight, polished harmony of the Blackwood Brothers or the Stamps Quartet, whose records graced our modest family collection, but the music that came to life in that farm house rollicked with the same passions expressed on those albums and those voices became touchstones to a yearning of spirit that to this day is awakened in me with the swing of the bass line in "On The Jericho Road," the exuberant harmonies of "Walking In Jerusalem," or the longing reflected in the phrasing and lyrics of "Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling."

Thirteen years ago, a company of actor/singers and this writer/director assembled in Edmonton, Alberta, to create a theatrical event, a recollection of a time just beyond their reach when tents were erected in small towns all across North America and revivals of the heart were brought about with travelling evangelists and quartets. The play was called Tent Meeting and its development was a celebration of the magic that occurred when whole communities gathered together under a canvas roof to sing and cajole friends and neighbours into the presence of a living God, to invite them to follow a tug in their hearts brought on by songs whose melodies somehow would not let you go, and the relief from that lump in your throat was a walk away, down an aisle covered in sawdust.

My son Luke spent the first summer of his life listening in on that rehearsal, and the sounds of my two-fingered typing as I worked through the dialogue that threaded the music together in that first production. It seems poetic to think that as his voice changes and begins to find its adult timbre, I have the privilege of revisiting this celebration of religion and life, inspired by my own parents and a small country church where, as a six-year-old, I first sang in public a gospel tune called "Dare To Be A Daniel."

It was the original production of Tent Meeting that introduced Ron Reed to me and his passion after seeing the piece was truly flattering. It has been a privilege to collaborate with him in the further development of the script in a way that, I trust, has resulted in a story that with greater clarity opens a window to a time when faith was as integrated in the lives of communities as a trip to the grocer.

I trust you enjoy the journey, as I have, and leave the theatre inspired to look in garage sales for recordings of groups with names like "The Stamps Quartet," Hovie Lister and the "Sensational Statesmen," and of course "The Blackwood Brothers," to play on your dusty outdated turntables.

Morris Ertman

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