Janet Rice, as Emma, comforts her granddaughter Alex played by Jessica Lavigne in Theatre Night in Merrickville's production of “Jigsaws”. Photo by Andrea Howard.

submitted by Andrea Howard, Theatre Night in Merrickville

This fall, Theatre Night in Merrickville presents the Canadian premiere of “Jigsaws” by Jennifer Rogers, directed by Heddy Sorour. The play explores the nuanced relations between mothers, daughters and sisters, three generations of the same family, as they come to terms with changing circumstances and attitudes. It is an actor’s dream and an audience pleaser. When Jigsaws opened in Perth, Australia in 1988, the playwright explained: “I want to show women as they really are, as funny, bright, interesting, brave human beings who bring immense strength and compassion into one another’s lives.” 

The Merrickville production is born out of serendipity. In 2018, author Jennifer Rogers and her partner were visiting Canada and happened to book a stay in Heddy Sorour’s B&B.  There was no transportation to bring her visitors directly to their lodgings, so Heddy drove to the airport and picked them up herself. Conversation easily led to their shared passion for the theatre and an enduring friendship blossomed. When Heddy read “Jigsaws”, she loved the play and asked if she could direct it for TNIM. The play had already played in London, Antwerp, New Zealand and Stamford Connecticut. Jennifer was delighted to have it produced in Canada as well. She went so far as to suggest that Heddy transpose the setting from Perth, Australia to Merrickville!  

Since the story unfolds over the Christmas holidays, all references to weather and outdoor activities had to be changed from the dead of summer down under to the winter reality ‘round here. Heddy has succeeded in this seamless transformation through workshopping the script with her actors. “As a director, I’m thrilled with the stellar cast of experienced female actors that I’ve lucked into for “Jigsaws”.  Each and every cast member has brought her imagination and wealth of stagecraft to every rehearsal, and it’s been thrilling to watch them apply their talents in developing their characters and in refining necessary script modifications.”  

Indeed, serendipity has played a role in the casting as well; three of the five seasoned community theatre actors who auditioned were completely new to Theatre Night in Merrickville. And they are perfect for their roles! The full cast features Janet Rice as Emma, the matriarch, Andrea Lewandowski and Janet Hilliard as her daughters Sylvia and Pat, and  Jessica Lavigne and Dayna Stone as Sylvia’s daughters, Alex and Monica. 

Five women, three generations; see how they fit! “Jigsaws” was written more than 40 years ago. In Australia, it continues to be produced as a popular period piece, but its themes of sisterhood and sibling rivalry, mother-daughter relationships, gender roles, family dynamics, and the nature of marriage are as relevant today as they were in 1988. The play is rich in metaphor, with dialogue that is intelligent, biting and fresh. Classic female characters of a conventional middle-class family are carefully drawn – archetypes rather than stereotypes of strong but conventional women of the past and free young women of the future. To quote a feminist scholar in her exploration of the text, “The main gift that “Jigsaws” offers to women in the audience of all ages, from the twenties to the seventies, is a message of hope.” It should be noted that there is a brief scene of suicidal ideation. 

“Jigsaws” plays Thursday to Saturday, November 23 to 25, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 26 at 2 pm in the Merrickville Community Centre, 106 Read Street, K0G1N0. No small part of the magic of a theatre night in Merrickville is the transformation of a big empty room into a full theatre, with seating for 150, lighting, full set, and ambiance. You can imagine that this takes the creative effort of dozens of volunteers. As we like to say, it takes a village to raise a curtain!


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