The year is 1871 and the place is Baxter Springs, Kansas. Jenny (played by Jen McGowan) is a tough businesswoman running a house of ill repute in Jenny’s House of Joy, Rivercity Players’ next production.
She has three employees: Frances (Christina Sumner-Petersen) who has been there the longest and is the roughest of the ladies; Anita (Kat Eddy) is a bit naïve and hopes to be able to move up in society; and Natalie (Katie McArthur-Cronin), a new girl escaping a bad situation. The fifth character in the play is Clara (Michelle Zylstra) who does not work in the brothel, but rather has come to ask plead with the ladies to turn her husband away.
Baxter Springs is a cattle town, and the play has a western feel. Although the audience doesn’t see any of the patrons, their tales are told through the ladies. Along the way, the audience will get to hear the ladies’ own stories – how they got to where they are, and how their inter-relationships affect their lives. The story is told with Foster’s usual mix of comedy and poignancy.
The play is being directed by Julie Rigby. Rigby moved to Quadra Island ten years ago with some acting experience, and was quickly asked to direct a musical, and has been involved in a number of local productions since then, both with Quadra Players and Rivercity Players.
Rigby was drawn to Jenny’s House of Joy by the characters.
“I fell in love with them,” she said, “this play is a great study of female relationships.”
She is particularly enjoying working with the cast – who vary from having lots of previous theatre experience to a first time actor.
“My favorite part is seeing the actors grow and get what we are working towards,” she said, “I love working with these ladies!”
Rigby says that audiences can expect to be entertained – they’ll laugh, they’ll think a little, and then they’ll leave with a warm fuzzy feeling.
This production will be Rivercity Players entry in to the North Island Zone Festival. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the 2017 festival will feature only works by Canadian writers.
Playwright Norm Foster has been the most produced playwright in Canada for over twenty years. Originally from Ontario, he settled in Fredericton, New Brunswick. A friend invited him to audition for a local production of Harvey and, although he had never even seen a play before, he landed the lead role and was hooked. Shortly thereafter, he started writing plays, and hasn’t looked back – with more than 50 plays to his credit. Campbell River audiences will remember other productions of his plays, such as The Melville Boys, The Long Weekend, Opening Night and Here on the Flight Path.
Jenny’s House of Joy is playing at the Rivercity Stage (1080 Hemlock Street) April 27 to 29 and May 4 to 6 at 7:30 p.m., and April 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Impressions Gallery, CR Laundromat, and the Tidemark Theatre. Warning: coarse language and adult themes.
Audience members dressed in western attire will be entered in to a prize draw.