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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How do you like your Alberta History? Onstage is good with me! John Ware Reimagined at Workshop West...

Until I heard of the play I hadn't heard of John Ware. I knew a bit about Amber Valley and have some of knowledge about some of the history of Black Canadians mostly because of my work and my personal interests. A couple of seasons ago we produced a piece called Blak! by Krystal Dos Santos at the Citadel and in preparing for that I went on all sorts of little research tangents across the internet.We're so lucky to have access to so much information literally at our fingertips...

John Ware Reimagined by Cheryl Foggo is actually more than one play... at least that's how I felt when I left. I thought there was one play, about John and Mildred Ware and how they met and fell in love and lived, and another about Joni, who was seeking to find herself in the history of Alberta and her frustration with feeling like she was both invisible and other. It was also a musical (which caught me off guard only in that I wasn't expecting that).

I left these two plays with quite a few thoughts:

  • I really want to see a full length play/musical about John and Mildred Ware. I think there's something there. Jesse Lipscombe (John) and Jameela McNeil (Mildred) had a lovely chemistry and voices and it left me wanting to know more of their story. I was fascinated by the big-city woman and the tongue-tied cowboy who are clearly meant to be together. I wanted to more about the 4 parts of John Ware's life and I wanted to know more about Mildred and who she was. Both of them were inherently fascinating. 
  • I wanted more resolution for Joni. I was a bit frustrated with where she was at the end of the play and I wanted to know more about where she might be heading. I kept doing the math in my head for how much older she was than I was because it seemed to me that things must've changed a lot in a very short time or else where I grew up was different (or maybe my family was different). I wondered if she ever talked to her friend Marcy again. 
  • It also underscored for me that we all need to accept that everyone's life experience is different. We can't assume we understand what they are feeling in a given situation. I 'know' this, but it is nice to be reminded. 
Like so many other plays I have seen in recent years, it has sent me to the internet to find out more - more about John Ware, more about Mildred Ware, more about Alberta at the turn of the century, more about the Black communities in Toronto at the turn of the century... So... I have some reading to do!

John Ware Reimagined has now closed. I saw it's second last show, but if it gets remounted, you should check it out... or do some reading yourself! 

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