“An Out-of-Left-Field of Dreams”
BRIGHT LIGHTS: Corktown’s Karen Kucherawy (l) with long-time friend David Ferry, award-winning director of Panamania’s highly anticipated site specific play, THE POSTMAN. Photo by Dennis Kucherawy.
By Dennis Kucherawy, Corktown Correspondent
David Ferry, one of Canada’s greatest, multi Dora Award-winning theatre and movie talents, was among the hundreds of celebrants who attended the lighting of the Queen Street Bridge a week-and-a-half ago.
For him, it was a Corktown homecoming. He’s never lived here, but he worked as a guest director for five years in the theatre department of George Brown College, then located at the NW corner of King St. E. and River St.
“I directed some exciting productions there,” he recalled, “with some of the colleges’ finest grads. Tennessee Williams’ ‘Orpheus Descending’, Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding,’ James Reaney’s ‘The St. Nicholas Hotel – Part Two of “The Donnelly Trilogy’ and Lanford Wilson’s ‘Balm in Gilead’ which is still one of my favourite productions ever.”
Ferry’s knowledge comes from first-hand experience. He performed In the NDWT’s national tour of “The Donnelly Trilogy” in the mid-1970s and became close friends with Canada’s great poet/playwright James Reaney who became a beloved and respected mentor.
And in New York, at Greenwich Village’s off-Broadway Circle Repertory theatre in 1981, David created the role of the ghost of World War II soldier Timmy Talley in Lanford Wilson’s “A Tale Told.” It was the second play in the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights’ Talley trilogy. (The play was later revised and renamed “Talley & Son.” Other plays in the series were “Talley’s Folly” that starred Judd Hirsch and “Fifth of July” that originally starred an unknown William Hurt and Jeff Daniels. It later played on Broadway with Christopher Reeve in the lead role.)
The lighting ceremony resonated with him as he is the director and co-conceiver of “The Postman,” a site-specific pageant that will take place in the Annex. It tells the story of Albert Jackson, the first black mailman in Toronto and likely in Canada.
As the Friday twilight sun set against a partly cloudy, partly crimson, crepuscular sky, Ferry waited for the illumination. He recalled the play’s prologue in which Jackson reminisces about the bridge:
“Downtown further, Queen and Broadview… country then, city now … there’s a sign on a bridge today says `The RIVER I STEP IN IS NOT THE RIVER I STAND IN.’ I like that. I think it must descend from Heraclitus…. That sign is me. This is my journey, this is the river I stand in… the porches I mount every day as I deliver…”
As part of Panamania, the cultural component of the PanAm/Parapan Games, “The Postman” is one of its most exciting, anticipated and original productions. It stars an impressive, multi-talented cast and creative team led by Ferry. He was recently named by the Toronto Theatre Critics’ Association as the 2015 Best Actor in a Play for the searing, sold-out independent production “Blackbird,” which he also directed. Sarah Booth, who also produced the play, starred opposite him in an emotionally naked performance. Laurence Dean Ifill, known for his portrayal of Bronco Davis on Degrassi High, stars as Albert Jackson.
I’ve seen a rehearsal and a special, invited-audience read/sing-through at St. Lawrence Hall. Trust me, “The Postman” not only “rocks,” it delivers.
“The Postman” tells the fascinating and inspiring story of Albert Jackson, Toronto’s first African-Canadian postman, explains the official website at www.thepostmanwalks.com.:
“(It) will take theatre goers on a journey through history from porch to porch, echoing Mr. Jackson’s original lower Annex delivery route (Brunswick Ave, Harbord St, Bloor St. and Palmerston Ave). The story starts with the Jackson family’s perilous journey from slavery along the Underground Railroad, and ending with Jackson’s life in service as a Toronto postie.
“(Those attending) ‘The Postman’ will experience storytelling through traditional gospel spirituals, but with a modern twist,” the site promises.
“We’re (also) producing a mobile app that is both a guide for the production, and a means for anyone with a Smartphone to experience the story of Albert Jackson,” says the site.
Guitarist Brooke Blackburn, a regular at Soulpepper Theatre cabarets such as the smash hit Nina Simone tribute “The Nina Project,” composed the show’s music along with Saidah Baba Talibah. She is a 2015 Dora Award nominee for her memorable performance in Necessary Angel’s celebrated presentation of “What Makes a Man” which featured the songs of Charles Azanavour.
Ferry invited such accomplished writers as Joseph Pierre, Corktown resident Sugith “Entitlement” Varughese and Andrew “The Real McCoy” Moodie to write about stages in Albert Jackson’s life. Additional contributors are Lisa Codrington and and Leah-Simone Bowen, both Obsidian writers of upcoming projects.
For example, Moodie chose to write about Jackson’s first day as a way of conveying the racism Jackson experienced early on the job. His white colleagues refused to explain his route and instead gave him a broom. Moodie told the Toronto Star he recalled his own experience when, as a teenager, he was hired over the phone for a job at a restaurant in Ottawa. When he arrived, he was told the position was filled.
As the first performance approaches on Sunday, July 12th, the first performance of its week-long engagement, perhaps another quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Epheseus describes David Ferry’s imagination passion, and, most of all perseverance:
“Big results require big ambition.”
David confesses, “I have never done anything so out-of-left-field as this project.”
Well, that is “The Postman,” isn’t it? An”Out-of-Left-Field of Dreams.” David, if you stage it, they will come. W.P. Kinsella would be proud.
For more information about “The Postman,” especially how you can donate to this ambitious project, visit the following websites:
- www.thepostmanwalks.com – Info
- www.gofundme.com/thepostmanwalks – How to donate
- twitter.com/thepostmanwalks – Read the tweets for up-to-date info and add your own.
About Panamania: Presented by CIBC, it is the 35-day arts and culture festival intended to enrich the Toronto 2015 PanAm/Parapan Am Games experience. More than 250 unique performances and exhibitions, both free and ticketed, will take place around Toronto from July 10th to to August 15th. Panamania is programmed to showcase the diverse cultures and artistic excellence of Ontario, Canada and the Americas through music, theatre, dance, the visual arts and fashion.
Dennis Kucherawy, who has lived in Corktown for almost 30 years, met David at Western University in the mid-70s while he was a student there and David was rehearsing the NDWT Co.’s Canadian tour of “The Donnelly Trilogy.” They have been friends ever since.
His wife, Karen, appeared with David in the Canadian film “My Last Confession.” He played a stern, no-nonsense priest; she played the mother of a young girl. David called her “creepy.” She considers that the ultimate compliment.