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The Farm Show

The Farm Show
Your Price: $16.95 CDN
Author: Ted Johns, Paul Thompson
Publisher: Coach House
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 112
Pub. Date: 1998
ISBN-10: 1552450120
ISBN-13: 9781552450123
Cast Size: 3 women, 3 men

About the Play:

The Farm Show is a Canadian classic, which was developed in a co-operative, actor-driven form of playwriting known as "collective creation" and scripted by Ted Johns. Now recognized as one of the biggest indigenous theatre hits in Canadian history, in the beginning, says Ted Johns, "No one anticipated the delight people would take in hearing their own language and observing their own culture."

The Farm Show was a seminal "collective creation" under the direction of Paul Thompson, who pioneered the technique. A troupe of actors from Theatre Passe Muraille went out to the countryside near Clinton, Ontario one summer to talk to local farmers about their lives. In pairs, the actors knocked on every farm door in the Clinton district. In order to get the desired interviews, they often ended up helping with farm chores and paging through wedding albums over tea. They transformed their interviews into a series of set pieces, from a monologue about the pains of stacking hay bales to a song about a farming dynasty; the end result was The Farm Show, one of the landmarks of Canadian theatre history.

The show's director, Paul Thompson, described the project saying: "The idea was to take a group of actors out to a farming community and build a play of what we could see and learn ... We hope that you can see many stories woven into the themes of this play and that out of it will emerge a picture of a complex and living community."

Ted Johns, who later scripted the piece much later, wrote: "Usually a script is the first hint of a play's existence. In this case, it is the last. In the early days of that summer of ’72, the actors had no idea what they were doing. The dramatic techniques and the songs grew out of the actors' attempts to dramatize their discoveries in daily improvisational sessions. At first the results didn't seem like a play: no lights, no costumes, no set, a barn for a theatre, hay bales for seats. Simply pure performance…."

The Farm Show was first produced in 1972 by Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. The show was a great success, and it has been performed in barns and theatres across Canada, on tour in the UK, and became the subject of the documentary film The Clinton Special produced by author Michael Ondaatje. In recent years, Michael Healey has taken the idea further, and in his play The Drawer Boy reflects on the impact the theatrical visitors and this collective piece had on the community of Clinton, Ontario.

Cast: 3 women, 3 men

What people say:

"...one of the most influential plays in Canadian theatre history." — LAMPSletter (Toronto)

"I have a soft spot for this beautiful play about farm life in Southern Ontario. I've seen it performed several times and also acted in a production of it. It’s the first collective I was aware of – a precursor to devised theatre. This play has so much heart and humour.." — Beverley Cooper, playwright, actor, and teacher

About the Playwright:

Ted Johns is a Canadian actor and playwright born in Seaforth, Ontario in 1942. He studied at the University of Toronto before teaching in a fishing village in Labrador and lecturing in English at Brock University.

Paul Thompson is a Canadian playwright and director born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in 1940. From 1971 to 1982, he served as artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille (with which he is still associated). He has participated in several celebrated productions as well as directing at Centaur Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Blyth Festival and Native Earth Performing Arts among many others.

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