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eNews | Behind the Scenes | Upcoming | Phoenix Phacts | Perks | Kudos

eNews: Welcome to the "Phoenix BackstagePASS"

Congratulations to our winner and thank you to everyone who contributed to our contest to name our new email and submitted their clever and witty ideas, not to mention more "ph" alliterations than you can throw a stick at!

Coming in with the most votes is Phoenix BackstagePASS! One contributor loved that it connoted "the privileged information we will be getting ... I look forward to reading it before the performances."

Thanks again to everyone and enjoy November's issue.

Behind the Scenes:
Grahame to Bennett: Thoughts on a Children's Classic

Excerpts from Alan Bennett's Introduction
to The Wind in the Willows.

Acclaimed British playwright and author Alan Bennett adapted Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale for stage in 1991. Several years before, he was contacted by the National Theatre in London, England to combine The Wind in the Willows with some account of the life of its author. In this excerpt from the introduction to the play he admits that he had not read the book as a child.

“I don’t recall reading The Wind in the Willows as a child, or indeed any of the classics of children’s literature. This was partly the library’s fault. In those days Armley Junior Library at the bottom of Welsley Road in Leeds bound all their volumes in heavy maroon or black, so that The Adventures of Milly Molly and Mandy were every bit as forbidding as The Anatomy of Melancholy."

Later in life, Bennett didn’t read the book because he thought he already had! “This being virtually the definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have done so.”

When researching to write the play he set to work trying to interweave Grahame’s real and fictional worlds. But Grahame’s life had not been a happy one and so he ran into difficulties matching the cozy world of Mole, Ratty and Toad to that of its writer.

Kenneth Grahame was born in 1859. “He had never had (as he put it) “a proper equipment of parents,” and was effectively orphaned at the age of five when his mother died of scarlet fever and his drunkard father packed him off to Cookham in Berkshire to live with his grandparents; he never saw his father again. He was sent to St. Edward’s School in Oxford, where he did moderately well, and was looking forward to going up to university there when the family – or the “grown-ups,” as he thought of them all his life – decided he should go into the City as a clerk (“a pale-faced quilldriver”) in the Bank of England.”

Bennett writes that Grahame, when he was at his desk, “was often not doing the Bank’s work, but writing articles for the National Observer and The Yellow Book. Pretty conventional for the most part, his pieces deplored the creeping tide of suburbia and extolled the charms of the countryside, sentiments that have been familiar and fashionable ever since.”

At the age of 40, Grahame, very much the bachelor, surprised his friends in 1899 and became engaged to and then married Elspeth Thompson. Their son Alastair was born premature and half blind. Bennett writes:

“He was a precocious boy, though – Elspeth, in particular, insisting on his charm and ability – with the result that he was much spoiled and given to tantrums, during which he would beat his head on the ground in fits of grief and rage. When his father started to write letters to him telling the stories that, in 1908, became The Wind in the Willows, Mr. Toad’s tantrums were intended to ring a bell.

The book was far from being an immediate success (“As a contribution to natural history,” wrote The Times critic, “the book is negligible”), but at least this saved Alastair Grahame from the fate of A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin, dogged always by his fictional counterpart. Still there was not much else that went right for Alastair. Since his father had longed to go to Oxford, Alastair was sent there, but as a child of eccentric parents and lacking any social skills, he was as unhappy as he had been at Eton, and in 1920 was found dead on the railway line that runs by Port Meadow in Oxford.”

Bennett concludes his comparisons, “The ironies are dreadful; the river bank, setting of the father’s idyll, scene of the son’s death; the train, Mr. Toad’s deliverer, the instrument of the real life Mr. Toad’s destruction.”


Upcoming Events: Plays, Lectures & more

Wind in the Willows: November 8 - 24, 2007

Kenneth Grahame's classic tale adapted for stage by Alan Bennett.
The English riverside adventures of Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad.

Presented by

Media Partner:
Island Parent Magazine

November 1: Box Office Opens

November 9 at 7:00pm: Free Pre-Show Lecture
Please join Judith Terry, UVic Professor Emeritus and specialist in Children's Literature. Her talk, The Unlikely Story of Wind in the Willows will examine the undiminished popularity of Kenneth Grahame's book as it approaches its centenary in 2008. She will compare aspects of Grahame and Alan Bennett, and consider both the novel and the script to illuminate this performance. This free lecture is open to everyone, including those with play tickets on alternate evenings.

November 13 at 8:00pm: Sign Language Interpretation
Experience Wind in the Willows with special sign language interpretation. Deaf interpreter Nigel Howard will be signing the dialogue and play description during the performance for the Deaf and Hard of hearing. This initiative is made possible by the UVic Equity and Human Rights Office with help from the UVic Resource Centre for Students with a Disability.

Lionel: February 14 – 23, 2008
By Pan Bouyoucas, Directed by Ewan McLaren
The 1920's Hollywood odyssey of the shortest tenor in history.

November 30 at 12:30pm: Orion Lecture
Author and playwright Pan Bouyoucas in discussion about Lionel, the play and the creative process leading up to its first production.

The Unusual Case of Señor Morton: March 13 – 22, 2008
(El Insólito Caso del Señor Morton)
Written & Directed by Martín Zapata, Performed in English.
A seedy detective story satirizing moral ambiguities in the sexually-charged film noir style.


Phoenix Phacts: News on Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Students

Phoenix Theatre cleaned up at the annual Victoria Critic's Spotlight Awards receiving nine nominations and winning:

Best Performance in a Community Production: Trevor Hinton, Richard III
Best Direction: Giles Hogya, Richard III
Best Lighting Design: Tim Herron, Richard III
Best Overall Production (Community): TIE—Richard III and The Caretaker

Department of Theatre Alumni received seven nominations and won for:

Best Fringe Production: Pitch Blonde (Laura Harris)
Best New Play: Grimm Tales (Itsazoo: Anne-Marie de la Giroday, Colby Wilson, Chelsea Haberlin, Trevor Hinton, Sebastien Archibald)

Faculty member Ned Vukovic was also named for the Life Achievement Award in recognition of the amazing work he has done at UVic, both as a teacher and as a dialect coach on many productions.

See full list and article in the Times Colonist. Check out past Phoenix Phacts on our website.

Email Perks:

Receiving this email comes with perks! The following Phoenix supporters are offering you a deal, just because you're also a supporter of the Phoenix…aren't we all lucky!

Early Christmas Savings at Cadboro Bay Books
Bring your Wind in the Willows ticket stub to the Cadboro Bay Book Company and save 10% off your purchases from November 8 to December 1. www.cadborobaybooks.com | 477-1421

Phoenix Subscription Packages are still on sale! 3 shows for $30. To order season tickets, call (250) 721-8000 or fill in the order form and fax to (250) 721-6596.

Sponsor Kudos:

The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our community sponsors for their support of our programs.

2007/08 Season Community Partner:Cadboro Bay Village
Cadboro Bay Village Merchants
Blaney's Travel, Cadboro Bay Book Company Cadboro Bay Village Service, Edward Jones, For Good Measure, People's Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods, Smugglers Cove

2007/08 Season Ticket Sponsor: Monk Office Supplies


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