This fall, Montreal theatregoers will be treated to a stage adaptation of the literary classic THE HALLOWEEN TREE by legendary sci-fi, horror, and mystery fiction author Ray Bradbury. A Canadian Premiere, the story uncovers the holiday’s origins and buried meanings and is being brought to colourful life by Montreal’s own “theatre for all audiences”, GEORDIE PRODUCTIONS, from October 21st to the 30th, 2016 at the D.B. Clarke Theatre.
Following our in-depth interview with Artistic Director Mike Payette earlier this season, Geordie invited us to one of their rehearsals last week for an exclusive photo op and a conversation with AMANDA KELLOCK on adapting and directing this original production. Check out our sneak peek preview of the show below!
On Halloween night, five friends meet up to go trick-or-treating. But their best friend, Joe Pipkin, is too sick to go. He tells them to meet at The House, an old, deserted place in the ravine that none of them have ever dared to visit on Halloween night. When they arrive, instead of Joe they encounter a mysterious man named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud… What follows is an epic journey into The Undiscovered Country to find out the hidden secrets of Halloween and to save Joe Pipkin.
Brace yourselves, Montreal: Geordie is currently brewing what may be one of their most hair-rising, spine-chilling, but heart-warming productions to date. The hallowed theatre company’s mainstage show for the 2016-17 artistic season, The Halloween Tree was developed with Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal and its adaptation and direction is in the hands of none other than longtime Geordie collaborator and Repercussion Theatre Artistic Director Amanda Kellock (who will also be directing the high school/college touring production of Marcus Youssef’s Jabber in March).
Following the success of this summer’s all-female production of Shakespeare-in-the-Park’s Julius Caesar, Kellock has rallied up a star-studded cast of local talent including three of last season’s META award-winning actors Eloi ArchamBaudoin and Davide Chiazzese (Tableau D’Hôte Theatre’s Hosanna) as well as Lucinda Davis (Imago/BTW’s Random). They are joined by Trevor Barrette (Centaur’s Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott), as well as Canadian Screen Awards nominated show Mohawk Girls’ Jimmy Blais, META-nominated Charlotte Rogers (Geordie’s Chloe’s Choice), and Jaa Smith-Johnson (X-MEN: Days of Future Past).
On what audiences can expect from The Halloween Tree, Kellock explains: “Children and adults alike will learn about the roots of Halloween as we transport them back to historic sites such as Egypt, Mexico, and the British Isles (where the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain originated) and explore different cultural practices and traditions. It’s an exciting adventure of travel through space and time, but there’s also emotional stakes involved for the characters as they’re trying to save their friend Joe Pipkin who’s been kidnapped.”
Apart from being a thoroughly engaging lesson on the genesis of the spooky holiday, a major theme in Ray Bradbury’s beloved 1972 novel that is also being dauntlessly integrated into Kellock’s conception of this new production is the intricate subject of death.
“Here in North America we have this civilized relationship to death where we separate ourselves from it,” she examines. “There are formal structures and processes in place; you’ll have a funeral, for example, and it’s over. It’s understandable that we tend to want to distance ourselves because when you stop to think about dead people, ghosts, and paranormal witnesses, it’s truly a frightening thing.
“However, we need to reflect on the possibility of having a relationship with the deceased that is positive and continual and that is all about remembering and honouring their past. In the book, a place that they spend a lot of time in and that has a lot of focus is Mexico and its national holiday, Dia de los Muertos. It’s believed that once a year on this Day of the Dead, the spirits return and their presence can be felt again; it then becomes an encounter that people can look forward to as opposed to being something that they dread. It’s such a beautiful celebration and it makes everything not quite as devastating as it could potentially be. That’s definitely part of the mystery of this play and what it seeks to explore.”
On the risks of exposing young audiences to a potentially distressing subject matter, Kellock defends: “I’ve had a relationship with Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree for seventeen years now, having first read it while I was working at the Morgan Arboretum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. For three to four years I was put in charge of coming up with a Halloween activity for the community there, and every season I would organize this event where we would have different actors dressed up in costumes take families on a journey through the arboretum at night only by jack-o-lanterns – and it was all overtly about death and thematically linked to this book.
“My experience was that the parents were a little freaked out at first, wondering how their children would react and deal with it, but the kids were so ecstatic to be in the middle of a forest in the dark and to be talking about death as something that was potentially magical and exciting rather than scary and sad. You’d be surprised at how kids can be so much more open to talking about these things.”
In alignment with Geordie’s mandate to educate, entertain, and challenge its audiences, The Halloween Tree has heart, humour and depth (based on what we witnessed firsthand at the open rehearsal last week) and promises to spark weighty dialogues among generations.
“This show is an honest way of starting a conversation about the importance of valuing the people we hold dear and marveling at all the life around us,” shares the passionate director. “Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship and about living each day as though it could be your last, and I think that’s a really important message that not only kids but we as adults need to be hearing and carrying with us.”
The Halloween Tree at a glance
Performance Dates: October 21 – 30, 2016
Venue: D.B. Clarke Theatre – Concordia University Hall Building
(1455 de Maisonneuve West)
Tickets: $13.50 children; $15.00 teens; $17.50 students/seniors;
$19.50 adults; prices subject to taxes | Group rate (10 or more): 20% Off
Age Recommendation: Children age 7 and up & adults of all ages
Running Time: 75 minutes
Geordie Productions is Montreal’s leading English-language professional Theatre for Young Audiences, entertaining and engaging the imaginations of children and their families since 1980! Geordie Productions celebrates the art of theatre and its impact by working with emerging and established artists from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds to create theatre that is provocative, relevant and enchanting; inspiring dialogue between communities, children and parents as well as teachers and students of all ages. www.geordie.ca