Play to take Morinville residents back in time

Calgary play write Jacqueline Russell spent a few days in Morinville interviewing residents as research material for a play she is writing about the community – Stephen Dafoe Photo
By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A camera and tripod set up in the back room of the Morinville Public Library was focused on a number of Morinville residents last week or a serious of interviews that will form the basis of an upcoming play.

Calgary-based play write Jacqueline Russell, who grew up in the Edmonton area, was in Morinville last week to tour the community and talk to some of its life-long citizens as research for a play being sponsored by the Friends of the Morinville Public Library and partly funded through a Town of Morinville Centennial Grant.

Russell said she has been collaborating with librarian April Heppleston on the project.

“April set up a bunch of interviews for me to talk to different people from the town, from different generations, different backgrounds,” Russell said. “It’s been fascinating so far.”

Russell said the interviewees ranged from people in their 30s to senior citizens. Although there was cross over in many of the residents’ experiences in Morinville, Russell explained everyone had their own distinct stories to tell.

“We called the project 100 Stories,” she said laughing, adding the title may have been ambitious. “You can’t really put 100 stories in one play, but we’ll try and put a few.”

Now that the interviews with Morinville residents have been completed, Russell will begin the process of turning those stories into probably a one-act play to be performed in Morinville this fall by professional actors.

“I’m going to spend the summer writing,” she said, noting at this point she does not know exactly what form the play will take. “For me as a play write, I’m more interested in reflecting the stories in their most authentic form, but [without] being really worried about specific dates and details.”

Rather, Russell’s Morinville play will seek to capture more of the essence and feeling of Morinville as a community. The play write said the theatre that most interests her is theatre that comes from true stories based in history.

“I’ve always been a big history buff,” she said. “I worked for many years in Fort Edmonton [Park] and in Barkerville as a historical actor. Part of that involved writing, taking facts from the town and turning them into monologues to present to the public.”

While Morinville will have to wait until fall to learn just what Russell’s play will say about Morinville, she was quite willing to reveal what she has learned about the community during her brief stay last week.

“It’s so easy to drive past a small town in rural Alberta and go, ‘Oh, it’s just another little town,’ but there is an extraordinary history here, and some really unique things about the culture,” she said, adding she was not aware of Morinville Francophone and German heritage. “I think the one of the things that’s really starting to seep through all of the interviews – because one of the questions I always ask is what do you like about Morinville? – is the sense of community that’s very strong here and was here right from the beginning. It seems to have stayed through even with the growth of the town. It seems to still be very much a small town even though it’s gotten bigger.”

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