People tell me all the time how much they feel proud to be Canadian after seeing it, which is a beautiful thing to hear, but I never intended it to be that.
—Julia Mackey, writer and actor
When Jake's Gift opened at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival on July 18 it was Julia Mackey's 625th performance of it.
"It's crazy," she says. "It doesn't feel like I've performed it that many times."
Veteran on Juno Beach, D-Day, 2004 (Julia Mackey & Dirk Van Stralen)
Mackey has been touring the show for six years now. She first performed it in the Winnipeg Fringe in 2009. Then in the fall of 2010 she performed it at MTYP and at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's Warehouse Theatre. In an unusual move, the show is now coming back to the Fringe.
"To me, I'm not thinking one is better than the other, it's just about sharing the story and I think fringe festivals are such great events every year," Mackey says.Read: CBC's review of Jake's GiftJake's Gift
tells the story of a World War II veteran from Manitoba who reluctantly travels back to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He is in search of the grave of his brother who was killed in the war. While there, he meets a young French girl, Isabelle, who befriends him.
"It's not really a war story," says the B.C. native. "It's about how we help one another deal with loss and how we get through. It's about forgiveness and regret. Those themes are so universal for so many people that I think there seems to be a connection, whether or not they have a veteran in their lives.
"People tell me all the time how much they feel proud to be Canadian after seeing it, which is a beautiful thing to hear, but I never intended it to be that," she says.
Grave of Manitoba veteran in Normandy that inspired one of Mackey's characters (Julia Mackey)
Mackey traveled to Juno Beach for the anniversary of D-Day before writing her fictional one-woman play. She was particularly moved by the inscription on one of the gravestones of a veteran from Manitoba, so that's why she made her characters Manitobans. Since then, she has actually met the family of that veteran in Grandview, MB and performed her show there.
Mackey says she doesn't get tired of doing the same show over and over. "I love telling the story so much and the characters have become so real to me and even though it's from my own imagination and my own experiences, the story is based on real events that happened in real people's lives and so that's what makes it so important to me to keep telling. This story for me is really a tribute to all veterans." Julia Mackey performs Jake's Gift at Venue 16, PTE Mainstage.
Related:Check out all CBC's Fringe reviews.