Friday, 6 July 2018

Theatre production: "I Come from the Valley! Tales and Times of Joan Finnigan"

The story is about a very Irish Canadian - Joan Finnigan. All the music is Celtic traditional. Musical accompaniment is by an up-and-coming family group led by a veteran Celtic performer - Siobheann Donohue (nee Leahy) and family.

I encourage readers to make a trip to the Ottawa Valley this summer to take in the unique Canadian theatre experience our new show, and Stone Fence Theatre, offer. (For a taste, check out the music video of the title song, I Come from the Valley! we made.) Our new musical, I Come from the Valley! Tales and Times of Joan Finnigan showcases one of Canada's most important writers, poets and historians. 

Roy MacGregor has called the show, "The essence of the Valley itself." It is set in the hills of the Ottawa Valley which Finnigan immortalized through her writing. Rich in the larger-than-life Valley lore and characters of her award-winning stories, the show also reveals much about Finnigan's troubled and turbulent life that the public never saw.

"You will laugh, sing and you will weep with both joy and sentiment," wrote MacGregor.

The show celebrates the author's work - funny, bawdy, touching and poetic - in Celtic musical style that befits someone as "Irish to the bone" as Joan Finnigan. It traces her life from her childhood as the feisty daughter of hockey icon Frank Finnegan in the Ottawa of the Roaring Twenties, through her husbands suicide, her literary celebrity status with her Gemini award-winning NFB filmscript Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar (starring the late Margot Kidder in her first role) and her dedication to preserving the oral histories of the obscure Valley "old-timers."

And it raises - and attempts to answer - troubling questions about the ambivalence, or downright hostility, many Ottawa Valley locals felt about her and her works.

The show, which opens July 12 in Rankin (between Pembroke and Eganville), Ontario, was written by company producer Ish Theilheimer, with songwriting help from Johanna Zomers. Stone Fence Theatre, will perform the show 17 times in nine Ottawa Valley communities. Many of the shows include the company's trademark country-style roast beef supper and pre-show entertainment by outstanding local musicians. The tour concludes in Ottawa at the Bronson Centre November 18.

The show stars jazz and blues standout vocalist Fran Pinkerton as Joan Finnigan and features the sensational musical accompaniment of The Donohue Family of Douglas, Ontario. A cast of eight others take on approximately 50 roles - the people in Finnigan's life and her characters.

A music video of the title song, I Come from the Valley!, gives a good sense of the musical style and energy of the company and its performers.

Details about the show are available on the company's website.

The site includes biographical information about Joan Finnigan.

Ish Theilheimer, Producer

Stone Fence Theatre
"Putting the Ottawa Valley on stage since 2003"