The great joy of being an editor and mentor and working with emerging writers, is just that, seeing and being part of that emergence, supporting, sometimes coaxing, sometimes pushing that process of a mind tuning into its own creative force.
About two years ago, Ellie Reynolds asked me if we could meet up and talk about books. Of course, I said. I always want to talk about books. That is my life, books, writing them, reading them, editing them, reviewing them, piling them in heaps on my bed.
And so we did. Her youngest son was two then and he usually slept in the afternoon so we could meet in the library while he napped next to us. We talked about many things, other than books and then we became friends and then after a while, we just wholeheartedly adopted each other as family.
And all the while, she was writing and learning about writing. She sent me rough drafts of things and I sent back comments and ideas, as I do with many writers in the middle of a writing process. Then she sent me a piece that I knew had some depth. She worked on it: it grew and took shape and it began to grow into a play – a really interesting play. It had elements of humour and drama and chaos; it was about love and families and tradition and many other things. It even had music.
I am not a theatre director, although I love theatre, so at some point, Ellie found theatre people to work with and I did the odd edit here and there. But I fell out of the process a bit as the play grew into an actual working piece of theatre.
Ellie asked me to come to the dress rehearsal at the Gray Creek Hall and I was very happy to do so and a bit intrigued as well. I knew there had been changes and movement and rewrites and a dramatization of a piece I had only known as text.
And then it began. I sat in my chair with my critical brow furrowed, as it usually is. After all, my job is to analyze what is working in any piece of text and what is not and I can’t turn that analysis off nor do I ever want to.
But right from the beginning, Ellie’s voice, her body, her acting, her singing, took me inside a an enthralling piece of theatre, inside a text that she had embodied, brought to life, a piece into which, as an actor, she threw her whole heart, her whole body, her voice, her intensity so that the play came alive. It’s an extraordinary experience to see talent being born, to see something come into the world that is beautiful and true and brilliant. I never cry, hard-bitten cynic that I am but I sat in the dark and smiled and teared up just a teensy bit and rejoiced at what I was seeing and hearing.
It takes a lot of people to get a text to be a play and then to get the play into the theatre and working on stage. But this night was Ellie’s night, her story, her life, her writing about her life, and then bringing it, with extraordinary clarity, into something we could all be a part of.
The next performance will be in Saturday, July 6, at 7:30 pm, at the Prince Charles Theatre. The performance is actually two plays, Matchmaker on the Roof, by Ellie Reynolds, and Jesus Christ Superstore, by the brilliant and talented Bessie Wapp, from Nelson. Just a warning. Not really suitable for younger kids.
Just go. So worth it.