Special to the Record
Steve Hill wrote When I’m 64 to provide more live theatre roles for older women.
The first-time Comox Valley playwright succeeded in creating six believable roles, say some of the performers who will bring them to life March 28 in a L’Arche Comox Valley fundraiser.
“I can’t say enough in praise of Steve and … his wonderful memory,” comments Louise Salter, who portrays Alexandra, a successful businesswoman and wine connoisseur from Calgary.
“Steve was the chaplain at St. Joseph’s (General Hospital), and heard so many stories. When your husband passes, or you or he or someone in your family is going through some kind of terrible medical thing, it’s a time when women spill their guts.”
Salter, a Comox Valley native who has stage experience in Victoria, Powell River and Courtenay, praises Hill for taking “all those memories of all those vulnerable people … and creating some characters that are real – they really are.”
Sharon Pridham plays Sonja, a recent arrival to the Comox Valley who tries Internet dating.
“Not a lot has been said about what women of our age … are looking at because all of a sudden we’re out of our 40s and we realize, ‘Hey, we’re halfway out of our lifespan and what is the next chapter going to be?’ ”
The veteran Comox Valley thespian says she had no trouble relating to her character.
“Sonja and I made friends the first time I read her part in the play,” states Pridham, who draws on her mother’s experience of becoming a widow at the age of 52.
“She can really handle it,” Pridham says of Sonja. “She is going to come out just fine. The way Steve has written the part, she has a terrific sense of humour.”
Kate Fairley, whose real age is 83, plays Joan, a widow who tells her 64-year-old daughter the secret of why her husband emigrated to Canada after the Second World War.
“When I took the part on, I understood it was a reading (in which performers read from scripts),” reveals the English native and former Comox District Free Press (Green Sheet) reporter, who admits memorizing lines has been a challenge.
“I think it’s good for my memory to have studied this, and I don’t feel so worried about it now.”
The two March 28 performances, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., will easily be the highest-profile ones so far.
“When I’m 64 started out as a series of readings,” notes Salter. “There’s never really been a lot of staging involved. This is going to be very different,” she adds, comparing previous intimate venues and crowds of only several dozen people to the anticipated much-larger Sid audiences.
Memorizing is not the only challenge, mentions Fairley, referring to how often the cast delivers monologues while alone on stage.
“You have to imagine you’re talking to an invisible person a lot of the time, waiting for their response,” Fairley explains.
Lynn Hodge (Trish), Patricia Foster (Street woman) and Elaine Hanson (MJ) portray the other characters. Sue Medley is herself, singing her song These Are The Days.
When I’m 64 will be performed March 28 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
For details and tickets, visit sidwilliamstheatre.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit the Sid box office at 442 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.
Mark Allan is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Comox Valley Record.