Badian to conclude 'Prairie Nurse' trilogy with 'The Waltz' and 'The Cottage Guest'
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Marie Beath Badian, who has a long and varied history with the Blyth Festival, will be revisiting the world of her wildly successful Prairie Nurse with The Waltz, the second in what will be a trilogy of shows in that universe.
Badian’s project is one of a number of plays the Festival has commissioned in recent years. While the Festival has shifted its focus for 2021, producing a five-show season on its new outdoor Harvest Stage, these plays remain in production with hopes of being produced in the village in the coming years.
The Festival commissioned Prairie Nurse and it premiered in Blyth in 2013. A few years later, the play was picked up by a number of theatres across the country, being produced in Toronto, Gananoque, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. It proved to be a great success for Badian, who then looked toward expanding it to tell the story of a family over time, similar to other trilogies she has appreciated over the years.
Badian says she is a big fan of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy of movies, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, which follows a young couple over the course of 18 years. She also noted famed Canadian playwright David French’s Cover Mercer trilogy of plays - Leaving Home, Of the Fields, Lately and Salt-Water Moon - as another influence.
She is now embarking on writing her own deeply personal trilogy. That process, however, actually began with The Cottage Guest, which returns to names and settings familiar to Prairie Nurse audiences.
The Cottage Guest will be the third and final play in the trilogy, set in 2017, but it was the second that Badian began writing. During the process, however, she felt there was a story to be told in the middle of the two productions, which is where The Waltz comes in.
The Waltz, commissioned by the Blyth Festival, is set in 1993 and it takes place in a rustic cabin in northeast Saskatchewan. Its two characters are Bea and Junior, the daughter of Puring and the son of Penny, respectively, the two titular nurses from Prairie Nurse.
In the description of the play on Badian’s website, she said The Waltz “unfolds under the magnificent Saskatchewan sky, at dusk.” While Blyth is certainly not in Saskatchewan, Badian said the play may be a good fit for the Festival’s newly constructed Harvest Stage as the sun goes down into the night.
She wrote the play with the support of not only the Blyth Festival, but of the Banff Playwrights Lab and the Ontario Arts Council.
Badian said she sees The Waltz as a grand romance and she wants audiences to get swept up in that romance as well. “I want you to fall in love with them,” she said of The Waltz’s two characters.
With a history that stretches back nearly 20 years, Badian has a great admiration for the Blyth Festival.
She began working with the Festival in 2002 when Eric Coates was still the artistic director. She was brought on to assist with the Young Company when current Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt was at the helm of the troupe.
Badian would then direct the Young Company for two years before acting in Leanna Brodie’s Schoolhouse in 2006 and directing Paul Ciufo’s Reverend Jonah in 2007.
She says getting her start at the Blyth Festival has “meant everything” to her, saying that she credits the Blyth Festival for building the foundation of her career.
As a relative outsider who was born and raised in Scarborough, Badian said she had wondered what she could bring to a small community like Blyth and how the stories she tells would connect with a rural Ontario audience. However, she soon felt that she had a “Blyth story” in her and that desire led to what would become Prairie Nurse.
That play changed her life, Badian said and it turned into a real whirlwind, as it would be performed all over the country in the years following its premiere in Blyth.