Judy Hipkin, Whitley Dunn and Sam Bob star in Extended Wings by local playwright Michael Armstrong. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s Western Edge Theatre starts year with new local play ‘Extended Wings’

Playwright Michael Armstrong also directed the play and designed and built the sets

Western Edge Theatre is beginning its 15th season with the premiere of a local play that examines the issue of seniors’ isolation.

Nanaimo Seniors Connect and the Nanaimo Women’s Centre approached Western Edge with the idea, and the theatre company turned to local playwright Michael Armstrong. The seniors group had interviewed a number of seniors about their lives and provided Armstrong with the transcripts to help prompt his writing.

“Basically for me the interviews provided a background and a milieu in which to write…” Armstrong said. “There were certain things from the interviews, certain incidents that people talked about that informed the writing as well, but I was also thinking about people I know.”

He said several ideas crossed his mind, including doing verbatim theatre based on the interviews, but he felt like “the most powerful thing is to tell a story.”

That story, Extended Wings, comes to the Harbour City Theatre from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4. Armstrong is also directing the production and he designed and built the set. The play follows three characters: A vigorous, independent grandmother raising her rebellious teenage granddaughter who gets a job doing chores for an elderly Indigenous man who lives alone.

“So it’s really [about] the way in which the young woman interacts with both of the older people and helps them find a path to healing and re-connection,” Armstrong said.

He said he’s heard that playwrights shouldn’t direct their own plays and that there are pros and cons.

“I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my own work. I like being in charge of it because I have a pretty clear idea of what it is that I’m looking for,” he said. “And at the same time I’m really disappointed somebody else is not doing it because that always leads to new discoveries and new points of view.”

WHAT’S ON … Western Edge Theatre presents Extended Wings at the Harbour City Theatre. 2 p.m. shows on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. 7:30 p.m. shows on Oct. 26, 27 and Nov. 1, 2, 3. Also at the Roxy on Gabriola on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $24 for adults ($22 on Thursday), $20 for seniors ($18 on Thursday), $15 for students and young adults ($12 on Thursday). Available here.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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