October 22, 2014

Return of Homechild highlights local talent

As published in The Erin Advocate

The new production of Homechild – The Musical at Centre 2000 this week is a showcase of local musical and dramatic talent, shining a light on a dark corner of Canadian history and celebrating the power of family ties.

Hillsburgh playwright and composer Barb Perkins remains passionate about telling the story of the hundreds of thousands of impoverished British children who were shipped to colonies including Canada between 1860 and the 1930s. They were promised a better life, but often experienced hardship, abuse and discrimination as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants.

The story of Perkins’ own family history has been transformed into a play that has an evolving life of its own. It centres on Nan and three other children taken from a family of nine in Wales, and their desire to be reunited.

September 28 was British Home Child Day in Ontario and some members of the cast performed songs from the play at a day of special events held at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Stephanie Baird and Jeff Bathurst share a song of hope. 
Watching a rehearsal on Sunday, it was interested to see that even with the hustle and bustle of set changes and getting the cast of 31 on and off the stage in an efficient manner, the moments of hope and anguish and fighting spirit shone through bright and clear.

The play originally had a workshop staging at the Charlottetown Festival in 1999, but found its home in Erin with a full production in 2005. Since then it has been mounted by groups in Oakville, Ottawa, and in January of 2013 by Orangeville Music Theatre.

Drama teacher Steve Sherry, who helped with the show in 2005, is artistic director this time around. Music is directed by Pam Claridge, Jim Hanenberg and Barb Perkins, who is also co-producer with Chris Bailey. The Stage Manager is Stephanie Giugovaz, assisted by Jim Baker and Nancy Larocque.

Set Design and Construction are by Steve Sherry, Michael Russel and a crew of helpers, with painting by Klara Gooding and Stephanie Baird, who is also the Choreographer. The Dance Captain is Tori Ridley. Props are coordinated by Susan Wilson and costumes created by a team of nine: Barb Perkins, Christine Turnbull, Gillian Bailey, Cecile Bull, Lorraine Fennell, Sue Harvey, Nancy Larocque, Kim Pearson and Jacqueline Pilote.

The cast includes Jeff Bathurst as Will, the father of the family, and Stephanie Baird as his wife Ellyn. Young Nan is played by Paula Turnbull, Young Mary by Sierra Virgin, Young James by Brett English and Young Thomas by Dylan Larocque. The Matron is played by Candace Kelm, Older Nan by Sarah Martin, Older Mary by Racheal Seifried, Older James by Dexter Adkin and Older Thomas by Corey Kalynchuk.

The Male Chorus is Des Baxter, Brad Finch, Jim Hanenberg, Mark Keir, Mark Ladouceur, Dick Murray and Keith Smith. The Female Chorus is Tori Bennett, Karen Heckman, Elyse Hodgson, Kathy O’Shea, Kim Pearson, Tori Ridley, Sierra Virgin and Cathy Waters. The Youth Chorus is Theo Adkin, Tessa Dandy, Klara Gooding, Josie Larocque and Brad Pearson.

Tickets are available at the Brighten Up Toy and Game store in Erin – call 833-9258. More about the show is available at www.homechildmusical.com and about the Child Emigration movement at www.canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com.