Rosebud Theatre is showing "Letter From Wingfield Farm" March 6-8 written by Dan Needles and performed by actor Rod Beattie.
"Letter" is the first in a series of seven plays about stockbroker-turned-farmer Walt Wingfield. Rosebud presented all seven plays in the series, at the rate of one per year, from 2013 to 2019, and is now about to present the first play for a second time.
For more information browse through www.wingfieldfarm.ca
CALL: 1-800-267-7553 for tickets. Sunday March 8 has the most availability.
Jeany: Doug Beattie -- Nowhere in your bio does it say that you are related to Rod. I have to ask, what's the connection? And have you two worked together before? Tell us a story about the first time and any other details of your working relationship.
DOUG: WE'RE BROTHERS. WE'VE WORKED TOGETHER ON THE WINGFIELD SERIES SINCE 1984, ALONG WITH OUR CHILDHOOD FRIEND, THE PLAYWRIGHT, DAN NEEDLES. ROD WAS ACTUALLY AN EMERGENCY REPLACEMENT WHEN HE FIRST PERFORMED LETTER FROM WINGFIELD FARM - ON ONLY FOUR DAYS REHEARSAL! (WE WERE A LOT YOUNGER THEN.)
Jeany: Did the Wingfield series start as a series or as the first play? How has the vision changed over the 30+ years and where do you see it going next?
DOUG: AT FIRST WE WERE JUST TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST PLAY WE COULD TO PLEASE OURSELVES AND WHOEVER WANTED TO SHOW UP TO SEE IT. IT WASN'T UNTIL AFTER THE FIRST PLAY BECAME A HIT THAT WE THOUGHT ABOUT DOING A SEQUEL. AFTER THAT, WE ADDED SEQUELS EVERY THREE OR FOUR YEARS AS MORE GOOD STORIES OCCURRED TO DAN AND ROD. IN THE EARLY PLAYS, STOCKBROKER-TURNED-FARMER WALT WINGFIELD (OUR PROTAGONIST) IS A CLASSIC FISH-OUT-OF-WATER CHARACTER. GRADUALLY HE BECOMES MORE ACCLIMATIZED TO THE RURAL ENVIRONMENT, AND THE SERIES TAKES ON LARGER THEMES.
Jeany: Who is your favorite character and why?
DOUG: THAT'S A BIT LIKE ASKING WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILD. I'LL DUCK THE QUESTION BY SAYING THAT WALT'S NEIGHBOURS ON THE SEVENTH LINE, FREDDY, DON AND THE SQUIRE, APPEAR IN EVERY PLAY AND ARE PERENNIAL AUDIENCE FAVOURITES. ANOTHER AUDIENCE FAVOURITE IS FREDDY'S SISTER MAGGIE, WHO EVENTUALLY BECOMES WALT'S WIFE. FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN A WINGFIELD PLAY, I SHOULD MENTION THAT ACTOR ROD BEATTIE PLAYS ALL THE CHARACTERS HIMSELF. IN THE FIRST AND SECOND PLAYS, EXCEPT FOR A FEW NOTABLE FEMALE ECCENTRICS, ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE MEN. IT TOOK US UNTIL THE THIRD PLAY TO FIGURE OUT THAT THE AUDIENCE WOULD BE HAPPY TO ACCEPT ROD AS A (FAIRLY) NORMAL, ATTRACTIVE WOMAN, AS WELL. MAGGIE HAS BEEN A REGULAR IN THE CAST EVER SINCE.
Jeany: Where do you live?
DOUG: STRATFORD ON.
Jeany: Where would you live if you could?
DOUG: STRATFORD ON.
Jeany: Perfect. --I love this quote: "The third partner, invisible but important, is director Douglas Beattie, who keeps it all seeming simple, but actually being quite complex." (- The Toronto Star). Can you let us in on some of the complexity? I'm imagining that much of your impetus for staging was prompted by Rod and his characterizations, but where does your invisible hand move in?
DOUG: IT ISN'T JUST MY HAND. AS YOU IMAGINED, IT'S A TEAM EFFORT. I BELIEVE THE SIMPLICITY REFERRED TO IN THE QUOTATION LIES MAINLY IN THE DESIGN AND THE STAGING WE/ I HAVE CHOSEN, WHICH COULDN'T BE MORE BASIC AND STRAIGHTFORWARD. THE COMPLEXITY LIES IN THE CHARACTERIZATIONS AND IN DAN'S DEPTH OF INSIGHT INTO THE RURAL COMMUNITY. MY JOB AS DIRECTOR IS TO MAKE SURE NOTHING ABOUT THE PRODUCTIONS GETS IN THE WAY OF THE AUDIENCE'S ABILITY TO PERCEIVE AND APPRECIATE THAT COMPLEXITY.
Jeany: Alberta is a land divided between old fashioned values and the pressures of our changing world. How do you see Walt navigating those same challenges?
DOUG: IN THE FIRST PLAY WALT TAKES UP FARMING IN AN ATTEMPT TO EMBRACE A SIMPLER, MORE MEANINGFUL EXISTENCE THAN HE HAS EXPERIENCED IN THE CORRIDORS OF FINANCE. HE THINKS OF HIS MOVE AS A PERSONAL STAND IN THE TRADITION OF THOREAU. BUT BY THE END OF THAT FIRST PLAY, HE HAS DISCOVERED SOMETHING EVEN BETTER - HE'S BECOME PART OF A BELOVED COMMUNITY. AS THE SERIES CONTINUES, WALT IS SOMETIMES PANICKED ABOUT THE WINDS OF CHANGE WHICH SEEM TO THREATEN HIS RURAL PARADISE. HIS NEIGHBOURS TEND TO BE MORE ACCEPTING OF CHANGE AND MORE RESILIENT IN DEALING WITH IT. WALT TAKES COMFORT IN THAT.
Jeany: What are the contents of your pocket right now?
DOUG: LINT AND A TORONTO SUBWAY TOKEN THAT I'M NOT SURE I CAN STILL USE. IT COST ME ALMOST FOUR BUCKS A YEAR AGO!
Jeany: What's your impression of Rosebud?
DOUG: THE CLOSEST I'VE BEEN TO ROSEBUD MYSELF IS DRUMHELLER. YOU FOLKS AT THE THEATRE HAVE TAKEN GOOD CARE OF ROD ON ALL HIS PREVIOUS VISITS, SO MY PRESENCE HAS NEVER BEEN REQUIRED. ROD HAS BROUGHT HOME SOME GREAT ROSEBUD STORIES, I MUST SAY. MY FAVOURITE IS ABOUT THE EVENING AFTER THE SHOW WHEN IT RAINED SALAMANDERS.
Jeany: Ha! --What's a great book that you've read recently?
DOUG: PERSUASION BY JANE AUSTEN
Jeany: Lovely. Tell us about one of the things you are excited to be working on now.
DOUG: I'VE BEEN INVITED TO DIRECT A REVIVAL OF "OUTSIDE MULLINGAR", BY JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY, IN BADDECK, NOVA SCOTIA, IN JUNE. I DIRECTED IT WITH THE SAME CAST IN KITCHENER, ONTARIO, LAST SPRING. IT'S AN AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT'S LOVE SONG TO IRISH DRAMATURGY, FEATURING INTER-GENERATIONAL STRUGGLES WITHIN TWO FARM FAMILIES.
Jeany: Yes! We had a beautiful and powerful production of Outside Mullingar here as well.
On August 4, 2013, Walt Wingfield passed another milestone in his remarkable career. That day's matinee performance of Letter From Wingfield Farm at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia, was Rod Beattie's 4,500th performance of a Wingfield play in a little under thirty years.
From the Orange Hall in Rosemont, Ontario (August, 1984) to Victoria (August, 2013) with opening nights in 1985 (Letter From Wingfield Farm) in 1987 (Wingfield's Progress) in 1990 (Wingfield's Folly) in 1997 (Wingfield Unbound) in 2001 (Wingfield On Ice) in 2005 (Wingfield's Inferno) and in 2009 (Wingfield Lost and Found) Walt and Rod have delighted capacity audiences across Canada in most regional theatres, including Victoria's Belfry, the Vancouver Playhouse, Edmonton's Citadel, Theatre Calgary, the Globe in Regina, the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, the Grand Theatre in London, the Stratford Festival, Theatre Orangeville, Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Canadian Stage Company in Toronto, Theatre New Brunswick and the Neptune in Halifax, as well as hundreds of smaller venues.
They've also taken part in seasons at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park and the Asolo Theater in Sarasota, Florida. The first three Wingfield plays were broadcast on CBC's Morningside, a TV version of Letter From Wingfield Farm (produced by Primedia Productions) won the 1991 Gemini Award for best performing arts program, and in November, 1998, a series of thirty half-hour TV episodes, entitled Wingfield, produced by Norflicks Productions, made its CBC debut. The series has aired more recently on Bravo! Canada and WNED TV, the PBS station in Buffalo NY.
Rod Beattie has won three best actor awards for his stage performances in the Wingfield plays: The "Sterling" in 1988 (Edmonton, Alberta) the "Dora" in 1992 (Toronto) and the "Critics Award" in 1995 (Sarasota).
Rod Beattie as Walt Wingfield
Photos: Terry Manzo
Rod Beattie as Freddy, Don & Third Witch
Photos: Terry Manzo & Ian Jackson
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