CHATELAINE, Fr. n ‘sha,-te lān. [a] Mistress of a chateau household or establishment. [b] Clasp or hook for a watch; purse or bunch of keys. “MERRIAM WEBSTER Dictionary”.
Another description is the iconic 85 year old women’s magazine whose zenith surely would be 1957-’77 under the editorial stewardship of Doris Anderson. Her autobiography – “REBEL DAUGHTER” is the subject of Erindale’s Arts Faculty students’ creation under director – Heinar Piller. The result is a humdinger effort. Photo courtesy of Jim Smagata
The cast of almost two dozen 3rd year students rely on imagination and symbolism plus emphasis on the historical background of the iconic author from 1921 to her death in 1977. Vignettes stress the influences of the ‘Roaring Twenties’; the great Depression; and World War II that highlight the evolution of equality and fair treatment of women which was Anderson’s overriding dynamic. Some liberties are taken and there are a few anachronisms (“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was composed in 1941; thus not available for a 1939 dance!) but the moods and situations are aptly depicted. Anderson is played by a significant number of different cast members and Piller exploits the symbol of a turquoise-ribboned key to designate which person is assuming the role. He graciously admits that it was one of his charges who came up with the idea! The utilization of a large rear screen projection effectively offsets the miniscule set.
The play starts with an obviously distraught and stressed out press room at Chatelaine© who must dash to complete an obituary and eulogizing issue to commemorate the two decades under her captaincy. The tone and formula are thus set and Piller reiterates the scene as the final curtain-closer, but with the addendum of changes – both positive & negative that has occurred during the half-century period. The audience also benefits from a recap of her accolades plus a listing of women who have broken through the glass ceiling.
Piller and the cast are heavy into the period scenarios in Act I. But post-interval, more of Anderson is the focus. Her ideology is exposed as is her determination to accomplish her goals and dogmatic beliefs. MacLean Hunter and the actual personages are mentioned and briefly interpreted. The directorial bit of a small dining table with Anderson ‘doing lunch’ with publishers and counterparts is both creative and expeditious. Pace never falters.
Erindale’s tradition of not assigning role-identities for Company created efforts equalizes the contribution of every student involved. With Rebel Daughter, everyone contributes both in conception and performance. However, there is one role interpretation that touched this particular viewer. The portrayal of Anderson’s Irish father by Zachary Zulauf is a standout. His depiction is real and identifiable.
REBEL DAUGHTER will be at Theatre ERINDALE until Sunday Nov.24th. The cast seem to relish their creation; we enjoyed seeing it and you will too.