The Fighting Days delves into issues of racism and pacifism within the early 20th century Canadian women’s movement
The Fighting Days is a riveting fictional account that focuses on the life and work of Francis Marion Beynon, a Manitoba journalist and political activist, during her time in Winnipeg from 1910 to 1917.
When the play opens, Francis is on her way to Winnipeg, leaving behind a sheltered and religious rural childhood. Soon after her arrival she meets Nellie McClung and becomes involved in the Votes-for-Women movement. She also begins work as the women’s page editor for The Rural Review, airing her controversial political views on the editorial page. Suddenly, Canada is involved in World War I, and the conscription crisis divides the suffragists: should all women have the vote or just Dominion-born women who are sending their husbands and sons off to battle? Should women use their votes to push for conscription or to lobby for a swift end to the war?
It’s a play about the polarities of public and private lives, and about issues of racism and pacifism dealing with timeless moral concerns within the early Canadian women’s movement. Playwright Wendy Lill says, “Francis Beynon gave up everything for her beliefs and one can only hope the world’s a better place for it.”
I’m always surprised at what each production team are able to accomplish within the confines of this intimate local theatre. The limited size and space on the stage makes it a challenge to incorporate different scenes, yet they somehow always manage to make it work, and this production is no exception.
I find it very interesting when I see period pieces in theatre, film, or when reading a book. It’s astounding how much current day resembles the past, no matter how far back we go. With this production taking place just over a century ago, there was a war happening, women’s rights were being demanded, racism and divided politics were hot topics, and freedom of the press was being challenged. Sound familiar?
Julie Kern gives a solid performance as Nellie McClung, while both Avery MacDonald (Francis Beynon) and Carlin Tedesco (Lily Beynon) both make their Players Village stage debut with strong performances as well. Overall, it’s a wonderful piece of theatre, and a historical reference to some Canadian history that may not be very well known.
Written by Wendy Lill, Directed by Valary Cook, Produced by Theresa Arneaud and John Acuna.
Upper Row Avery MacDonald (Francis Beynon); Carling Tedesco (her sister Lily); Julie Kern (Nellie McClung); David Borwick (editor George McNair)
Lower row Victoria Stark, Jennifer Monteith, Louise Da Re, Karen Drybrough ((Letter Readers and crowd)
The Fighting Days opens Wednesday, January 18, 2023 (Sold Out), and runs until Saturday, February 4, 2023
Village Playhouse Theatre – 2190E Bloor Street West, Toronto (just east of Runnymede subway)Click here for prices, show times, schedule, and to buy tickets online. Alternatively, you can make reservations over the phone (416-767-7702) and pay at the box office when you arrive. There will be six performances at 50% capacity for patrons who want greater physical distancing.Masks are still required indoors at all times (except when eating or drinking). These policies are subject to change; check here for details. There is also still time to save money on the rest of the excellent season by buying a 3-show subscription. Click here for full details, or update your single ticket for The Fighting Days to a subscription at the box office.
About Wendy Lill, the playwright:
Wendy Lill has lived a truly Canadian life: born in Vancouver. raised in both London and Toronto, lived for many years in Winnipeg and now resides in Dartmouth.
She has written for magazines, radio, television, and stage. Her plays have been produced extensively on Canadian and international stages in such countries as Scotland, Denmark and Germany. Her play All Fall Down examines the roots of intolerance and hysteria and their effects on love. Sisters received the Labatt’s Canadian Play Award at the Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival. Primedia Productions brought out television versions of two of Lill’s plays, Sisters and Memories of You, both of which Lill scripted for the screen. (Sisters won a Gemini in 1992).
Lill has four plays nominated for a Governor General’s Award for Drama: The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum, All Fall Down, The Occupation of Heather Rose, and Corker.
Between June 1997 and June 2004, Wendy Lill was the Member of Parliament for Dartmouth and the Culture Communications critic for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP).
About Valary Cook, the director:
Valary honed her directing skills over thirty years as a teacher of Dramatic Arts in west end Toronto high schools: such musicals as Into the Woods, Godspell, Peter Pan, Camelot, The Baker’s Wife, and plays like Midsummer Night’s Dream, You Can’t Take It with You, and The Crucible. She also branched out into community theatre at BurlOak Theatre, several plays for Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival – and one previous play on our own stage: How to Hunt a Wooly Mammoth in Village Players’ Sweets and Treats in 2011. Not content with that, she studied directing with Richard Rose of Tarragon Theatre in 2014.
Village Players’ production of Late Company – directed by Valary – won best drama at the ACT-CO gala in 2019, along with best set design and 5 nominations including for her direction. The play went on to the Theatre Ontario Festival that year, where we won awards for Valary’s direction and outstanding performance in a leading role as well as 3 honourable mentions.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.