‘Painting Churches’ play opens this weekend at Stanley Bridge Hall

Ancelene MacKinnon
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STANLEY BRIDGE - About eight years ago, Karen Slater and Dale Harrington discussed performing the play, “Painting Churches”, for audiences on P.E.I. That time has now come as they have the opportunity to bring it to the stage at the Stanley Bridge Hall.

Dale Harrington and Karen Slater will be taking on the roles of Gardner and Fanny Church in the play, “Painting Churches”, at the Stanley Bridge Hall on May 17, 23, and 24.

Opening night is Saturday, May 17, and the performances will continue the following weekend on May 23 and 24 at 7 p.m.

“Painting Churches” was written by Tina Howe in 1983. The play centres around an elderly couple, Gardner and Fanny Church, who are reluctantly preparing to move out of their posh home in Boston to their summer cottage in Cotuit. Gardner was once a famous poet and now suffers from dementia.

Their daughter, Mags, agreed to go home to help with the move, and she plans on using her artistic abilities to paint her parents’ portrait, and hopes it will allow them to come to terms with each other.

Slater will be playing the role of Fanny, and is excited for people to experience the play because she thinks it has a wonderful message.

“I think everybody will see a little bit of themselves in it. Especially people middle-aged seeing their parents go through changes as they get older. It really hits home in a lot of ways.”

Harrington said they wanted a venue that was small so the audience could be up close and personal.

“We wanted an intimate setting because the story is very intimate. It’s like being a fly on the wall in a family home.”

He said a lot of effort has gone into making the play the best it could be, and taking on the role of Gardner tested him as an actor.

“There’s always a lot more work in a live theatre production than what most people expect. Letting the character grow and come alive and letting go of who you are is not an easy thing to do sometimes.”

Slater has been with community theatre for about 15 years, and said it’s important to have things in your life that present a challenge and push you.

“No matter how hard it is sometimes, it feels so exciting at the end to actually have produced something wonderful.”

Stephanie Betts plays the role of Mags.

“When we asked her to do it, she read the play and loved it right away. She’s so enthusiastic,” added Slater.

They’re calling themselves the Play in the Hall Theatre Group.

“It’s a completely new thing. It’s our first show and hopefully not our last,” said Slater.

Tina Pranger is the co-director and stage manager, and is happy with how the play has come together.

“They fit their roles perfectly. You couldn’t have picked three better people.”

Pranger said Sue Urquhart is the director and brings a lot of experience to the table.

“Painting Churches” was first shown at Off Broadway in New York in 1987 and has won numerous awards.

“A lot of the theatre I’ve experienced on P.E.I. is of the slapstick variety, so I’m very pleased to have something that’s a drama, but it’s funny, as well.”

She thinks people will be impressed.

“We’re really lucky to have a play of this calibre here.”

Tickets are available at the door for $13 or two for $25.

Organizations: Gardner and Fanny Church, Hall Theatre Group

Geographic location: Boston, Cotuit, Broadway New York

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