Quebec Art Company doubles down with farce from acclaimed Canadian playwright Norm Foster
Self-Help in rehearsal: From left, Ladd Johnson, Patricia Grimaud, Johanne Morin and Stephen Desjardins. The Quebec Art Company production of the Norm Foster play takes to the stage at Holland School May 4-7.
Last year was a big one for Norm Foster. Not only did the prolific Canadian playwright find himself pinned with an Order of Canada, there was the inauguration of a festival in St. Catharines, Ontario, devoted to his works. On top of that, he got engaged.
Hence, in retrospect, the Quebec Art Company’s (QAC) choice of Foster’s Opening Night for last year’s spring play, seems particularly inspired. That piece, directed by J.P. Chartier, and featuring a cast of veterans and newcomers, was such a hit the QAC decided to return to Foster’s repertoire of more than 60 plays for this spring’s production.
This time it’s Self-Help, directed by Mark Lepitre, a naughty-double-entendre-laced tale of a husband and wife team of washed-up actors who decide to reinvent themselves as motivational gurus. They succeed beyond their wildest dreams but that success comes at a price, which leads to marital discord, which leads to an untimely demise, which leads to much theatrical hijinks and lots of laughs.
Foster, 68, says Self-Help is one of only two farces he’s written. “I find the farce to be the hardest thing to write, and I had a lot of fun writing Self-Help, because you just do everything for the laughs. The comings and goings, the slamming doors, it’s all very fast paced. It’s a challenge but very fun to write, too.”
Foster wrote Self-Help in 2002, “back in the day when people like Dr. Phil were just coming to the forefront and it seemed like everybody was jumping on the self-help bandwagon. I was a little annoyed by it so I decided that maybe I should write a spoof of the self-help world, its foibles and some of its falsehoods.”
Coincidentally, the other farce Foster penned, Sinners, launched his career as a playwright in 1983. It happened almost accidentally. He had been working as the host of a radio morning show for many years when, at a friend’s suggestion, he auditioned for the classic play Harvey. He caught the theatre bug and began writing plays. His second play, The Melville Boys, got rave reviews and was produced across Canada and the United States, including an off-Broadway run.
Foster, who is based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, says in recent years, it’s not unusual that at any given time 20-25 of his plays are on stage. One of them, Drinking Alone, has been playing in Moscow for five years.
He’s a rarity among playwrights in this country, in that he can make a decent living from his work. He joked in one interview, post-Order of Canada, that his greatest achievement has “being able to put four kids through university on a playwright’s earnings in Canada.”
This summer two new Foster plays will be on the marquee at The Foster Festival, where there will be a special tribute to him to recognize his OC. He will also be acting in one of his plays in an Ontario tour this summer.
The QAC production of Self-Help takes to the stage May 4-7, at Holland School. Tickets can be ordered on-line from the company’s website: www.quebecartcompany.com.
This news article is kindly supported by the Voice of English-speaking Québec 2017 SpringFest 5 @ 7.
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