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The Melville Boys are going to do a little fishin’ Feb. 12

Canadian playwright Norm Foster was 31 when he discovered theatre
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Photo courtesy of Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) will be making its annual Thompson visit for 2012 on Feb. 12 with the dramatic comedy, The Melville Boys. The play will be at the Snow Lake Community Hall Feb. 11, while the Flin Flon Arts Council is presenting the performance two nights before Thompson at the Flin Flon Community Hall Feb. 10.

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) will be making its annual Thompson visit for 2012 Feb. 12, as part of their regional tour, this time with the 28-year-old dramatic comedy The Melville Boys at the Letkemann Theatre at R.D. Parker Collegiate.

Tickets are $25 and doors open at 8 p.m., according to the City of Thompson’s Recreation, Parks & Culture Department webpage at: Event.html

The night before, in a stop presented by the Aurora Borealis Arts Council, the play will be at the Snow Lake Community Hall Feb. 11, while the Flin Flon Arts Council is presenting the performance two nights before Thompson at the Flin Flon Community Hall.

This year’s annual MTC regional tour runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 24 with 25 stops in 32 nights, including four at the end of the month-long odyssey in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country in Atikokan, Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Kenora.

Written as a two-act dramatic comedy by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, The Melville Boys premiered at Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton in October 1984. In 1988 it won the Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award.

Foster, who is currently Canada’s “most produced” playwright, is from Newmarket, Ont., and had never seen a play until 1980 when he was 31 years old and working as the host of a morning radio show in Fredericton. Foster studied Radio & Television Arts at Centennial College in Toronto and then Confederation College in Thunder Bay.

"A friend of mine was going to audition for a community theatre production of Harvey and he asked me to go along. I went, just for a lark, and I wound up getting the part of Elwood P. Dowd. The funny thing is, I had never even seen a play in my life before this," Foster recalls in a biographical note.

Two years later he penned his first professionally produced play, Sinners. It was produced by Theatre New Brunswick in 1983 and directed by Malcolm Black, who would also direct Foster's next effort in 1984, The Melville Boys, which has become his signature work.

Lee and Owen Melville, “two working class brothers, one a big goof, the other a slightly more cerebral fellow (who is terminally ill),” says the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, arrive at a lakeside cabin for a relaxing weekend of fishing and brotherly bonding. Before they can open their tackle boxes, their plans are not-so-rudely interrupted by the arrival of two attractive, but very different, sisters.

“While there, they run into two sisters, one a silly wannabe actor, the other a more serious, intelligent lady. People pair up and the result is a story that is satisfying with some comic set pieces that are little gems (including a moment when the silly sister acts out her most famous commercial and, then, thinks, ‘I'm dying’ is a pick-up line). The second act is much shorter and handles most of the dramatic weight of the work,” notes the encyclopedia. “Though the characters could be dismissed as caricature, Foster offers genuine humanity in the writing and, indeed, sets out acting challenges for performers.”

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, based in Winnipeg, last season brought Wingfield On Ice to Thompson March 12, 2011. As the first frost comes to Persephone Township, Walt and Maggie Wingfield are prepared to welcome new life to their farm – she's expecting and he's nesting.  Alarmed about old feuds that divide the neighbours and disturb the tranquility of the community, Walt tries to reconcile strained relationships. His attempts to mend other people's fences are met with a resistance as stiff and cold as the weather itself – and the biggest challenge to all of them is looming on the horizon.

The slice of rural life is the fifth of seven in the Wingfield series, which follows stockbroker-turned-farmer Walt Wingfield, in a mythical township north of Toronto.

MTC wrapped up the City of Thompson’s concert series for 2009-10 with Robert Chafe’s 2002 play Tempting Providence, originally commissioned to be a “portable” play to be performed in Newfoundland and Labrador’s senior citizen homes and schools, written as a series of episodes that chronicle the early years of Myra Bennett’s life in Daniel’s Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

This winter marks the 34th consecutive year the MTC has gone on regional tour. In 2009, MTC brought to Thompson Theresa Rebeck’s one-character play, Bad Dates, starring actress Precious Chong, daughter of Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, as Haley Walker in a monologue by a Texas woman transplanted to New York City. MTC also took the play to Churchill, making their first stop there in 17 years. MTC brought Rope’s End, Doug Bowie's bittersweet 2006 comedy came to Thompson Jan. 29, 2008 as part of its annual regional tour.

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