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Playwright finds herself in a very different place

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Carol Libman

The central character of Carol Libman’s new intergenerational drama, A Very Different Place, is a singer whose ambition and dreams have hurt two of the people she’s closest to.

In the play, running at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto from May 8 to 13, three generations, a grandmother, daughter and grandson, are reunited after 17 years.

Marge, played by Jeanette Dagger, is in her 70s. She’s been caring for her two-year-old grandson since her daughter, Teri, played by Rosemary Doyle, left home to become a singer.

“She starts out with great expectations,” Libman said. “She’s in love with the leader of this small group who is a real talent but also a drinker, but she doesn’t know that at the beginning. She and her friends go to an open mic and they dare her to get up and sing. And he comes over and offers her a job, and she’s absolutely star-struck and she goes off.”

After a summer tour, Teri comes back pregnant with the bandleader’s child. Then, two years later, she agrees to go on a tour with the band again. As the years pass, her calls home become sporadic, until they stop entirely. A car accident finally ends her singing career.

Now, 17 years after she left home, Teri’s chance meeting with her son, Mike, leads to the reunion. Mike, played by Alexzander Mclarry, has his own expectations for the outcome of the reunion. He’s been working out west  – the play is set in Toronto over three days – and, now that Teri is back, he’s hoping she’ll care for his grandmother, who’s broken her hip. “He wants her to take what he thinks is her responsibility because he’s been the one who’s been with his grandmother,” Libman said.

Considering the impact of Teri’s abandonment on the lives of the other characters, their forgiveness doesn’t come easy. “Whether the mother will ever forgive her (Teri) totally, I’m not sure. It’s important that she does. She (Teri) is going to have to prove herself to Mike,” Libman said.

Another one of Libman’s plays, Cornered, is part of the annual InspiraTO Theatre Festival, a 10-minute play festival at the Alumnae Theatre from June 6 to 16. In it, a 20-year-old walks past a homeless woman, sitting on a bench, every day. The younger woman knows the older woman is watching her, but she’s not sure why. Cornered  was one of 30 plays chosen from more than1,000 submissions from around the world.

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Libman, 89, a former Montreal Gazette journalist, has had some 10 of her plays produced. She got her start as a playwright at a theatre festival in Sault Ste-Marie, where she lived in the mid-1950s. She’s critical of the first play she wrote, but it was good enough to catch the attention of the festival’s adjudicator, Dora Maver Moore, a Canadian actor, teacher and director who’s considered a pioneer of Canadian theatre.

“She asked me if I wanted to talk to her the next day at the hotel. Of course, I jumped at the chance. I was in my 20s. She sat me down and gave me a whole ton of good advice, books to read and who to get in touch with. I went from there,” Libman said.

The advice she got from Moore certainly helped because Libman’s next play won a competition. The Reluctant Hero, about a miner who feels he doesn’t deserve to be honoured for an act of heroism, was the winning submission of the 1956 Ottawa Little Theatre’s National One-Act Playwriting Competition.

Libman, who lives in Toronto, was one the founders of Playwrights Workshop Montreal, where she developed her own plays and helped other writers with theirs. The organization’s first mission, in 1963, the year it was launched, was to tackle the then-scarcity of English-Canadian plays and playwrights.n

For tickets to A Very Different Place at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E., Toronto, visit redsandcastletheatre.com. Tickets are also available at the door, cash only, and can be reserved by calling 416-845-9411. For tickets to InspiraTO, visit alumnaetheatre.com or call 416-364-4170, ext. 1