New play by Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James premieres
by Wendy Doubt
Our visit to Cavendish Beach four years ago transformed our lives,” say playwrights Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James. “We felt like we had “come home to a place we had never been before.”
They were captivated by Lucy Maude Montgomery’s history, her birthplace and the celebrated musical, Anne of Green Gables—The Musical. After someone suggested they write a musical about Montgomery herself they enthusiastically immersed themselves in the culture of Anne and allowed Montgomery and the eight principal characters of Green Gables to take over their lives. “It felt like Maude chose us (to write her biography),” Marchildon says.
The playwrights visited every conceivable historical site connected to Maude, read all of her stories, books, journals and papers, interviewed (or viewed the works of) everyone who has ever been involved in researching the author’s life or recording their interpretations of it. James’ and Marchildon’s musical production The Nine Lives of Lucy Maude Montgomery opened June 20th at the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown—exactly one hundred years after the release of Montgomery’s beloved Anne of Green Gables.
Montgomery’s family “were surprisingly in accordance with what we did,” Marchildon says. “They found our treatment clever, poignant and touching….We tried to be tasteful and circumspect,” he says. “But it ain’t Anne.”
“She always chose to do what was expected of her,” says James. “Maude wanted to create something good (from her life) but had a belief system that prevented her from divorcing her husband. She had a great power to live a lie.”
Montgomery kept the miseries of her existence a secret from even her most intimate friends until her last breath was expelled. It was only in her carefully preserved journals that she dared impart the full extent of her anguish.
A number of theatrical and film devices anchor the audience’ perceptions—rear screen images project the actual locations of the scenes; the scores reflect the genre of the day as do the period costumes. The “Anne” characters step onto the stage from inside a large facsimile of the first Anne of Green Gables book and the actors playing actual historical figures freeze in action while the fictional characters voice their opinion about what’s happening in the “real world.”
When a friend asked Montgomery if she could write a biography about her, Maude replied, “Biography is a screaming farce.” It remains to be seen whether or not audiences will enjoy this latest attempt to express Montgomery’s innermost thoughts and ideas and her deeply private torments on stage, or whether they will agree with the author’s opinion.