Wells-based actor and writer Julia Mackey presents her long running one-woman show Jake’s Gift at Malaspina Theatre. (Photo courtesy Tim Matheson)

Actress tells war stories in D-Day remembrance play in Nanaimo

‘Jake’s Gift’ follows a Second World War veteran coping with his past

Fifteen years ago, Julia Mackey traveled to the shores of Normandy to observe the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. There she not only attended ceremonies and expressed her gratitude to the veterans of Operation Overlord; she was also gathering material for a one-woman play.

“That week was truly one of the most emotional experiences of my life,” the Wells-based actor and writer said.

Mackey had developed a Second World War veteran character, Jake, in a theatre workshop a few years earlier, but knew there was more to his story. While in Normandy she conducted interviews with veterans to help discover what that story was.

“I was so emotional that I just wanted to thank them for their service and then I’d start crying and then they’d start comforting me, which was pretty funny…” Makey said. “And then if I felt like they wanted to keep chatting then I would ask them if I could record our conversation.”

That amalgamation of stories and experiences form the basis for Mackey’s play, Jake’s Gift, in which a Canadian veteran attending a D-Day memorial in Normandy meets a young French girl who helps him confront his traumatic past.

“I really liked the strength of this being a multi-generational story,” she said. “I liked the idea of the legacy of remembrance, of passing that on and truly it was what I witnessed when I was there. So many young French children would come up to the veterans and thank them for their service. And the way that the French families have preserved the legacy of that remembrance is so moving.”

Mackey and her partner and director Dirk Van Stralen have staged Jake’s Gift all over Canada and in the United States, England and France for the past 13 years. In December Mackey gave her 1,000th performance. From April 25 to 29 Mackey presents Jake’s Gift at Malaspina Theatre – her first Nanaimo shows since 2010.

Mackey returned to Normandy to perform Jake’s Gift at the Juno Beach on the invasion’s 70th anniversary in 2014 and this summer she’s heading back for the 75th.

Mackey said each time she goes back there are fewer veterans in attendance, but she said she and Van Stralen are doing what they can to make sure that they are not forgotten.

“We were at a very moving funeral yesterday for one of the D-Day veterans that we’ve met over the last dozen years and so I’m very aware that that generation is leaving us now and so it’s important to me to keep telling that story,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … TheatreOne presents Jake’s Gift at Malaspina Theatre on April 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and April 27 at 2 and 7:20 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for students.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crimson Coast Dance Society salutes African dance during Black History Month

Dancers from Mozambique, Rwanda and Cameroon to give demonstrations and lessons

Nanaimo Clippers, clad in Snuneymuxw jerseys, win in OT

BCHL team wins both its weekend games to stay in contention for first place on the Island

Nanaimo-bound ferry breaks down, but another available for service

Two sailings cancelled Sunday on Tsawwassen-Duke Point route

Air Canada will offer direct Nanaimo-to-Toronto flights again this year

Seasonal service will run from June until October

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Wildman Beard Co.

Wildman Beard Co. gained early success with Nanaimo mill workers

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Woodlands proposed to house students during Cilaire seismic upgrades

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ plan awaits ministry of education approval

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Most Read