Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sanctuary Song at the Distillery this weekend

My performing season winds up this weekend with two public readings of Sanctuary Song by Marjorie Chan and Abigail Richardson.

From the Tapestry website: "Developed in partnership with Theatre Direct Canada , this engaging multimedia opera for young people is inspired by the true story of an Asian circus elephant, an unlikely friendship and her remarkable journey to freedom."

Sanctuary Song is still at the workshop stage and will hopefully be going into full production somewhere in 07-08 as part of the Theatre Direct season. This workshop features Xin Wang as Sydney, Justin Walsh as James, Frank Cox-O'Connell as the Hunter, Ringmaster, and Sanctuary Worker, and Sharmilla Dey as Penny and a girl.

This opera is based on the lives of Shirley and Jenny, two elephants who after living long lives in circuses and zoos, were sent to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. (The names of the elephants in the opera are changed to Sydney and Penny) The amazing reunion between Shirley and Jenny, who had known each other decades previously and were reunited by chance at the Sanctuary is one of the most heart-warming animal stories of all time and proves that elephants really never forget. Carol Buckley's account of the reunion:

Jenny came into the barn for the first time since Shirley's arrival at around 7:00 p.m. There was an immediate urgency in Jenny's behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls. Once Shirley was allowed into the adjacent stall the interaction between her and Jenny became quite intense. Jenny wanted to get into the stall with Shirley desperately.She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over. After several minutes of touching and exploring each other, Shirley started to ROAR and I mean ROAR -- Jenny joined in immediately. The interaction was dramatic, to say the least, with both elephants trying to climb in with each other and frantically touching each other through the bars. I have never experienced anything even close to this depth of emotion.

Justin Welsh plays the role of James, a zoo worker who looks after Sydney and develops an unlikely friendship with her for 22 years (based on Solomon James, who looked after Shirley at the Louisiana Zoo).

Here is the creative team:

Lynda Hill, Director
Wayne Strongman, Music Director
Kelly Wolf, Design
Movement, Viv Moore
Luisa Quintavalle, Video
Kathryn Westoll, Stage Manager

The orchestra:

Christopher Foley, piano
Michael Schulte, violin
Ryan Scott, percussion

Although Sanctuary Song takes place in the Distillery, which is currently hosting many events for the Luminato festival, this workshop (in the Ernest Balmer studio) is actually part of the Seedling Festival, which is showcasing new theatrical work for young audiences. The final show in the workshop begins tomorrow at 3pm. Tickets are $10/5.

(Image by exfordy)

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