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Romancing the golden years

Norm Foster – the very name evokes memories of countless nights in rural theatres across this province. The Affections of May … The Melville Boys … Wrong for Each Other … Sinners … the credits of this most prolific and most produced of Ontario playwrights read like a roll call of community theatre warhorses.

Next month, Elora Community Theatre will once again dip into the Foster well for Old Love, a lesser-known effort about when love strikes in the Indian Summer of our years. It’s another of “the Canadian Neil Simon’s” gentle meditations on the lives and loves of regular folks in Canada’s heartland.

Ruth Connor and Tom Bolton catch cupid’s arrow, while Lia Kannemann (kneeling) looks on in Elora Community Theatre’s production of Norm Foster’s Old Love.[Submitted]
Ruth Connor and Tom Bolton (middle) catch cupid’s arrow in Elora Community Theatre’s production of Norm Foster’s Old Love. [Submitted]
“In this he’s made the setting southern Ontario, with real characters who could be neighbours, friends, relatives, or even the people who are watching the show,” said Julie Wheeler Bryant, director of the production. “I like the way he writes about subjects and creates characters that people can identify with very easily in their everyday lives. He writes in a very natural, realistic way.”

She continued, “He writes about relevant subjects too, and I think this is a case in point. It’s certainly an area that’s been underwritten about – dating and courtship with people who are over 55.”

The people are divorced Bud (Tom Bolton) and widowed Molly (Ruth Connor), a sixtyish pair who are drawn together after their marriages end – with Bud going so far as to ask Molly for a date at her husband’s funeral. Yes, in Bud’s eyes they’ve been star-cross’d lovers ever since they first met at the company Christmas party many decades ago, but their union will not be without complications. For instance, Molly barely ever knew who he was.

“When you think about romance, or watch romance in a movie or read about it, it’s usually people in their 20s, 30s, or even younger,” said Bryant. “I guess it’s a part of our culture. … Maybe it’s a bit of a novel idea for some people – a romantic courtship happening when people are in their 60s.”

This kind of seriocomic material that is Norm Foster’s stock-in-trade requires a delicate creative hand. Bryant assures us the cast – which also includes James Berry, Lauren Stoveld, Nancy Baker, and Jennifer Merry – is up to the task.

“When you read the play a million times, you have your own ideas that start to evolve. But then, when you meet the people who are going to be actually playing it, they bring their own personalities to it. To make the play work, there has to be a combination: their talents and personalities blending in with the characters that Norm Foster has written.”

She singles out stars Tom Bolton and Ruth Connor for particular praise.

“It feels like the play has been written for them. They’re friends in real life, and sometimes I hardly know whether they’re saying the lines in the play or if they’re just having a conversation, because it flows really smoothly.”

Of course, in a Norm Foster play it all comes back to Norm Foster. Bryant, who also directed a production of The Affections of May, has particular fondness for this provincial poet.

“I’ve read or seen many of his plays and directed his plays before, but I really like the way the lines flow in this one,” said Bryant. “I think a lot of Canadian actors really love learning Norm Foster’s lines maybe more than American or British scripts. It’s the way we talk – it’s a really natural flow, and easier to learn because we are Canadians.”

Old Love plays February 14-23 at Fergus Grand Theatre (244 St. Andrew St. W., Fergus). Tickets are $20 for adults, with special prices for seniors and groups starting at $15, and can be ordered at fergusgrandtheatre.ca or by calling 519-787-1981.

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