Auerbach returns to Festival to play Marjorie Clifford in 'Jewel'
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Rebecca Auerbach has been a part of the Blyth Festival on and off for the last 15 years, but this year will be her first experience with a one-woman show at the theatre as Jewel lead Marjorie Clifford.
Auerbach made her Blyth Festival debut in 2006 with roles in The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom and Another Season’s Harvest. Since then, she has performed in some of the Festival’s most memorable productions of the past 15 years, including Dear Johnny Deere, Kitchen Radio, Stag and Doe, Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning, The Pigeon King and more.
Jewel, however, will be the first time she’s been solo on a Festival stage, though it will be on its new Harvest Stage, rather than the traditional Memorial Hall stage. It will help that she’s familiar with many of the emotional aspects of the production.
Jewel tells the story of Marjorie Clifford, who is at home at her northern Alberta farm, awaiting a call from her husband, who is working on a oil rig off the shores of Newfoundland, where tragedy has struck.
First, Auerbach is no stranger to the work of Jewel playwright Joan MacLeod. They both come from the same part of the world, being Vancouver natives, and Auerbach remembers reading some of MacLeod’s writing as she was coming up through theatre school.
When Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt floated the idea of Auerbach playing the lead in Jewel, Auerbach was sure she’d heard of that play before. Sure enough, she went to her bookshelf and she had a copy of a book containing two of MacLeod’s plays. The first was The Shape of a Girl, which a colleague of hers had performed years ago, so she remembered reading that. The other play, which she hadn’t read at the time, was Jewel.
Though she was relatively new to reading Jewel, Auerbach was certainly aware of it because of her relationship with MacLeod. Auerbach says she respects MacLeod so much, both as a writer and as a person, so to portray Marjorie in what was MacLeod’s very first play will be special.
When the two worked together in the past, Auerbach said MacLeod invited her out to brunch and that connection was special for her. They’ve remained in touch ever since.
The second familiar element will be that J.D. Nicholsen will be directing the show. Auerbach and Nicholsen have performed together for a number of years, even writing together on collective productions for the Blyth Festival like The Pigeon King.
She said that, after working with Nicholsen for so many years, she could see that he was a natural leader who just hadn’t yet been given the opportunity to direct. She thinks they’ll work very well together.
It also won’t be the first time the two have worked together in such a capacity. Though Jewel will be Nicholsen’s main stage directorial debut, he has directed and co-directed a number of smaller shows, one of which was a 13-minute one-woman show Auerbach penned for herself at the Charlottetown Fringe Festival.
As for Jewel, Auerbach said she hopes audiences will feel the power of the play. Despite its serious subject matter, it’s very funny and it’s very hopeful as well.
Jewel will close out the 2021 Blyth Festival season, with its 11-show run beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 22 and closing on Sunday, Oct. 3.