Lucy Maud Montgomery is generally associated with Prince Edward Island, but a small theatre company is bringing the beloved author’s words to the stage in the town of Norval, Ontario.
Toronto musical theatre performer and acting teacher Marion Abbott founded The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company after creating a performance piece based on Montgomery’s books for a student to present at a competition. “As I worked with her to prepare, I realized two things: One, just how incredibly powerful Montgomery’s words were for the stage. Two, how passionate I was to make that happen,” says Abbott.
Abbott mined Montgomery’s Anne books and personal journals for material, adapting more than a hundred monologues and scenes with two or three characters. “My dream is to have these pieces published for actors everywhere to utilize,” says Abbott. “Female actors in particular are always looking for good monologues and Montgomery’s female characters are second to none.”
While searching for a suitable venue to mount the play, Abbott stumbled upon a happy coincidence. Knowing that Montgomery had lived in Norval, Ontario, between 1926–35, when her husband Rev. Ewan Macdonald was minister of the local Presbyterian church, Abbott travelled to the small town 40 minutes north of Toronto for a tour. There she discovered the Parish Hall at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, where Montgomery herself staged productions with the town’s dramatic society. When told about the connection, Abbott says she was “flabbergasted.” She booked the space on the spot.
The company’s first production is Conversations with The Ladies of Lucy Maud Montgomery, a collection of scenes drawn from the Anne series, featuring the red-headed heroine and other female characters including Rachel Lynde, Diana Barry, and Cornelia Bryant. The show opens Aug. 22, with tickets priced at $20.
Abbott says she hopes to mount five more productions between now and spring 2015, including Anne and Maud – a play Abbott wrote utilizing the Anne stories and Montgomery’s journals – and a dramatization of Montgomery’s 1926 novel The Blue Castle.
“We are hoping to attract anyone who has ever loved the writing of Lucy Maud Montgomery, history, and the uniqueness of Canadian theatre,” says Abbott. “And, of course, any and all fans of Anne Shirley.”
For more information, visit spiritofmaudtheatrecompany.com.